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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.

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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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Interviews

Orange Is The New Black – Season 2 Preview

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“Every sentence has a story.”

If there ever was a line to describe Orange Is The New Black it’s this one. Set inside a women’s federal prison, it showcases much more than just the main character, Piper, chained to a bright jumpsuit of the titular colour. As actress Laura Prepon, who plays the ex-girlfriend Alex, mentioned “it is much less about stereotypes and showcasing these women as, well, humans.”

We’re in the Soho Hotel, waiting for an exclusive screening of the new season of the Netflix original series. The room is buzzing with anticipation because the critically acclaimed show portrays these earnest, wonderful women in this earnest and sharp way. And luckily, the stars of the show were there to join in our furore for the show. All that excitement, anticipation and more electric in the atmosphere, did the show deliver?

Yes it did. The season opener is devilishly good. It is a slice of entertainment, riddled with emotive backstory that is both compelling and intriguing. Played strongly by Taylor Schilling, Piper is faced with a new set of inmates as she is transported to Chicago from her detention in ‘shu,’ (solitary confinement.) “Piper is trying to figure out what’s going on,” says Schilling, “It’s a brand new set of emotions and a big challenge, but I hope her turmoil comes through.”

Piper had spent a month kept away from the other inmates of fictional Litchfield after she beat inmate Doggett for threatening her. Initially put away from trafficking drug money, she is now tense that she’ll be facing new charges. “She explored dark places that she didn’t realise existed,” Schilling says, leaning on the high chair in a flowed woven dress. She is talking how despite being the heroine of the series, Piper is not quite golden. “She is flawed but that’s the show, it’s a human petri dish of emotions”

Schilling is joined tonight by American Pie star Jason Biggs. Though more famed for pie poking or “masturbacting” as it is affectionately known by the rest of the cast (“I masturbate in everything,”) he plays Piper’s suffering fiancé who discovers that Piper has reconnected with her ex Alex. Although he may joke that Larry dies in episode three, Biggs is a welcomed addition to a mainly female cast, portraying the life outside the cream walls of the prison. “He suffers from white knight syndrome, trying to help everyone. When he fails, he starts to think about himself but he does it in such a misplaced way that it doesn’t work either.”

At the centre of the prison is Alex, one of the many reasons why Piper is there in the first place after shopping her in for being an accomplice. Prepon is sat on the opposite of the line and looking stunning, with her dark hair more akin to Alex than her previous roles of Donna and Karen. The chemistry on the screen is captivating, despite each girl manipulating the other. “I remember doing the pilot,” says Prepon, her distinctive droll coming through, “and the director Michal Trim said that Alex is the spider and Piper is the fly. That really worked for us and we’ve enjoyed pushing it out of its comfort zone.

Joining the panel is Danielle Brookes, who plays one of the many fan favourites Taystee, a big and loud inmate who committed a crime to get back in after struggling on the outside. Though not appearing in this particular episode, her story arch continues, “Taystee has to deal with a lot of shit,” Brookes says, “how she can’t cope on the outside. And she has this new character come in and she can’t fall back on her defences.”

With all these brilliant characters, were there any similarities between the characters? “Well, I’ve never smuggled drugs,” says Prepon laughing, “but she is very true to herself and doesn’t mince words,” (just wait until you see the season opening because you see Alex in a lot of different eyes.)

“Well, I’ve never spoken about my vagina” says Danielle to a loud raucous room. “but I guess I am bright and bubbly. Though, there are times she goes down routes and Danielle would be like “no stop, what are you doing.’” Jason, a natural comic who has given his flare to the entire Q&A, steals the show yet again; “I don’t go around talking about my vagina either.”

Moving away from lady body parts and the phenomenal ladies in the prison again, with such a varied bunch of actors and characters, they must have a favourite, right? Leaning back indignant, Schilling protests “that is so unfair. They always ask us that. There are amazing ones, Crazy Eyes, Red.”

“- I have a thing for Chang,” interjects Brookes, “She’s all quiet and mysterious.”

“-We’d all be polygimists,” finishes Schilling.

Prison life is a difficult thing to convey, how did they prepare for the role? “I watched a lot of Prison Break,” says Schilling while Biggs may (or may not have) framed his wife for embezzlement, “while she is in there, we are still married, I think. I draw a lot from that.”

Jodie Foster is at the helm of the opening episode, with such an enigmatic talent behind the scenes, it must have been a once in a life time experience. We were like, there’s a person who looks a lot like Jodie Foster here,” laughs Biggs.

“You know,” Schilling says “it was awe-inspiring. She has such this depth as a writer, actor and director. But she understands lines, the characters and their arcs so she brings a lot to the table.

“I got jipped, I had like one line with her” pouts Brookes though we can all imagine Foster returning for what is looking like an exhilarating season. If there was one thing to leave audience with, as they bounce off the walls for this episode to come back, what would it be? “They all come back, don’t worry.”

Make sure you check out Orange Is The New Black on June 6th only on Netflix.

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Director/Writer Lowell Dean Talks WolfCop

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Lowell_Dean_Director-WriterWhilst mainstream horror obstinately retreads familiar territory in this current storm of remakes and rehashes the indie scene provides a good measure of relief by going against the Hollywood grain. In an attempt to aid the indie cause Canadian organisation CineCoup runs a Film Accelerator competition offering indie filmmakers the chance to win a one million dollar budget and a guarantee their film will release in select Cineplex theatres around Canada. This year’s outright winning film goes by the name of WolfCop, written and directed by Lowell Dean (13 Eerie) and has taken the whole world by storm with social media going wolf crazy.

Tipped as a perfect blend of horror and humour, WolfCop finds alcoholic cop Lou Garou struggling to cope with a strange turn of events in his life. When crime scenes start to smell all too familiar and Lou’s senses become heightened he soon realises he has been cursed into a rage-fueled werewolf. Given all the buzz surrounding the fuzz we took time out to speak to Lowell to find out exactly what to expect when the WolfCop comes on duty…

So WolfCop is heading to cinemas in Canada next month. You must be over the full moon about that.

Yes. It’s been a long time coming so it’s great to finally see the ending line on the horizon.

Before digging our teeth into WolfCop, I know you cut your teeth in the industry directing short films and some television. How did your first feature directing gig for 13 Eerie come about? I believe you were actually busy working on your own classic zombie script but left that to work on 13 Eerie.

Well it’s a funny story actually. Basically Mind’s Eye is a local film company and they had optioned my zombie script but I was having a hard time getting it made because I hadn’t done a feature at that time. So what Mind’s Eye suggested was that they were doing another movie with Roger Christian, who had worked on Star Wars and Battlefield Earth, and they wanted to put me forward to be his assistant. That way I could study under him and then use that as leverage to get my own zombie film made. So I got on board and did a lot of the storyboarding and a lot of preparation and Roger really involved me in everything. Then, literally just a few weeks before production, we found out that Roger couldn’t direct as he was not a Canadian citizen and we needed a Canadian director for the project. Roger agreed that, as I knew the movie inside out and had done all the storyboarding, I should direct it. That was a huge jump for me.

You have described yourself as a “director-for-hire” for that project on various occasions. Now with WolfCop you are directing your own script so this is your baby. How different has this experience been compared to tackling someone else’s script?

Oh it’s a very big jump. For 13 Eerie I was just happy to be invited to the party. Then I was trying to make a movie based on the script and it was Roger’s baby until just weeks before production so I didn’t want to come in and throw in all my new ideas. I knew I had to be respectful of his vision. 13 Eerie wasn’t my baby but WolfCop, just as you are saying, is 100% my baby. It was my idea, my script and it grew organically in me so it felt way more personal. That said, I don’t want to take anything away from 13 Eerie. I learned so much from that film and I don’t know if I would have survived WolfCop had I not gone through the adventure of 13 Eerie.

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The WolfCop movie came to life first in the form of a concept trailer which won the CineCoup Accelerator Competition. When you shot the trailer did you already have the whole script prepared and is it true you were writing a cop script and a werewolf script at the same time and decided to merge the two?

I had the script pretty much written – the first draft at least – and I partnered with a local production company called Echolands Creative. We were aware that the most known person on board was me after directing 13 Eerie but that still didn’t say much so we needed some kind of proof that we were the right team to make this movie. This is how the trailer came to be and we shot it before we had even heard of CineCoup. The trailer was going to be a bargaining tool to try and raise money. I mean, WolfCop is such a silly name that we were worried people would think it was just pure stupidity so I said we had to make something cool and show everyone that WolfCop is a bit of a badass.

It’s surprising you say you were concerned about the silly name when we have names ranging from Sharknado to Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.

I guess we got very lucky. It feels like the perfect storm right now. WolfCop came at just the right time and people looked past the title or even embraced it because of the title.

Obviously the biggest outcome of the CineCoup competition is to get an indie genre movie in cinemas. That aside though, what aspect of the film required the largest portion of the million dollar budget prize money to get it just right?

wolf_cruiser_barnDefinitely the effects. I mean one million dollars is still a very low budget, as you know, so we knew that we weren’t going to be able to do all these crazy massive stunts or digital effects, not that we would anyway. So we decided to go practical, do as much as we could and basically embrace the aesthetic of the ’80s practical effects films. We knew some things might look a little silly but this isn’t going to be a movie about two people in a coffee shop just talking. We are going to blow stuff up, run around and people are going to get their limbs ripped off and we’re just doing everything we can within our budget.

Talking of practical effects, you brought Emersen Ziffle on board again. Most recently he worked on Curse of Chucky but he also worked with you on a short film, Juice Pigs, and 13 Eerie. Given how gruesome 13 Eerie gets please tell me WolfCop is just as gory, if not more so.

It certainly will be gruesome. Any kind of violence is mostly practical effects and whilst the movie isn’t wall-to-wall action, everything that happens is very gross and violent.

You often talk of a lull in audiences’ interest for werewolf movies. Obviously we have had things like the Twilight saga but in terms of darker comedy/horror movies about werewolves that worked really well with audiences the most recent ones that come to mind would be say Ginger Snaps or Dog Soldiers. What would you say is the reason behind this lull and why is now the best time to bring WolfCop on duty?

I honestly don’t know why there is a lull and that is kind of part of the reason we did this. It was like knowing there was a really great character that people are ignoring. It’s like if you found out no one had the rights to Batman and he was just sitting there waiting for someone to make a movie about him. I think of things like you said, Dog Soldiers, Ginger Snaps and also things like A Werewolf in London and Teenwolf. I think of all these great practical, ridiculous and chaotic movies that seem to be missing in the world right now. I’m not just talking about the old ’80s vibe either. The werewolf character is always relegated to being a henchman or being in the background. I would way rather see a werewolf than a vampire personally so I’m like “Bring it on!”

With audiences well aware of films like A Werewolf in London and Teenwolf did you find you kept second guessing yourself so as to avoid repeating things we’ve all seen before?

Oh definitely. There are certain things that people who are fans of previous werewolf films will see that we snuck in as homage but by and large we did try and not just repeat things. Without giving any spoilers away, for our transformation Emersen and I sat down and said “OK. There have been a lot of werewolf transformations in movies so how is ours going to be different?” We both instantly agreed that we wanted it to be violent, really bizarre and there are some really weird things about it but I don’t want to give it away. Basically we decided it had to be practical and we were going to make it really, really painful.

Judging by the trailer it looks to be quite heavily steeped in comedy. One common stumbling block in many horror/comedy films is when a writer overdoses on the comedy side of things only to end up undermining the horror and scares. The Scream franchise tackled this well and I believe you were heavily influenced by that. How did you confront this aspect?

Comedy is certainly a very big part of our film. I think it is a very funny movie but when there are moments of horror it is so visceral and graphic that it is upsetting and hard to watch. This aspect is very personal though. Some people will be covering their eyes whilst others will be laughing their ass off. It’s like Raimi’s last movie, Drag Me To Hell. I went to see that with a friend and I was laughing at that throughout the whole movie and not once scared whilst the rest were covering their eyes. I guess I just saw this as a really interesting trick having to try and find just that right balance.

I’d like to ask you about Leo Fafard who you cast not only as Lou Garou but also as WolfCop. Was it always your plan to have the same actor for both roles and did that make casting him much harder?

Not at all harder actually. I wanted Leo before we even started filming. He was a local actor and had been a werewolf for me previously in a music video. He has got such a great look and even when he just looks at you he doesn’t have to say a word and he has an intensity to him so I just knew he would be great as both characters. Even though it made our lives a bit harder schedule-wise I really wanted the same actor playing both characters. I think that when he is WolfCop Leo comes through with his eyes and his motion. I wanted people to see WolfCop is the same guy and doesn’t do a switch on you.

wolfcop_FXThe actual look of WolfCop has gone through various transformations itself too. Having said that, all versions definitely keep a very human element to them.

That’s right. The advantage of doing the concept trailer and taking WolfCop to all the Expos and such was that it was almost like we were a bigger movie and we had the time to do all these tests. Emersen and I would make Leo up and we’d take him out and we could actually critique the look and get him on camera and decide what things needed tweaking. He does actually change a bit throughout the movie which you’ll see. We have different contact lenses and other things depending on what’s happening.

In pretty much every werewolf movie the protagonist is struggling with their demons trying to come to terms with their new predicament. You describe WolfCop as a superhero so does this mean we’ll see Lou come to terms with his new “powers” to use them for the greater good?

Lou will always definitely be struggling because he’s certainly not the quickest on the draw in terms of how he deals with his problems. Having said that, when we were developing it, and even when I wrote the script, I didn’t realise until afterwards just how much my love of comic books had seeped in. Then when we started storyboarding and putting it together we realised it was actually a really fucked up superhero origin story. It’s still very primal of course and he’s not running around saying. “You have the right to remain silent,” but there’s crime and he’s going after that crime.

The idea of a hairy Incredible Hulk sprang to mind when you described him.

That’s a really good comparison. I was raised on The Hulk too and I guess it’s that whole Jekyll and Hyde thing. This is another thing I think will make WolfCop stand out. Usually we just see this mindless creature that wakes up thinking “What did I just do?” We certainly still have that in our movie but when he’s out doing things he’s not just randomly attacking people, he’s still fighting crime.

Just like any good superhero there is an action figure Emersen designed which you set up an Indiegogo fundraiser for. You easily reached the target and decided to keep it open and use any extra money to fund a WolfCop graphic novel. What are your plans with the novel and does this mean you have various ideas that could be used as a sequel movie or movies?

WolfcopWell we are developing a trilogy of WolfCop graphic novels and if it goes well I’m hoping we can do more. In terms of a sequel I can tell you a funny story. When I first had the idea for WolfCop I jumped straight in and first started writing WolfCop 2 because I didn’t want to have to deal with how Lou became a werewolf. I don’t know why but I just wanted him to already be a werewolf and already fighting crime. I got to about 30 pages and thought “No. I need to go back and do the origins story first.” So yes we do have an outline for a sequel but I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to start writing until I know people are interested. It’s certainly the kind of character where there’s a lot of places you could take it but I don’t want to focus on it until I know that it’s what people want.

Sequels are always very tricky territory. RoboCop comes to mind as that was such a great origins story that was let down by two much weaker sequels.

Definitely. I think it’s that ‘put your money where your mouth is’ type problem. I think one of the reasons a lot of sequels don’t work is because they bring in different people, creatively. People who don’t understand the character or who have different mandates such as best-selling toys. For WolfCop I hope it’s me involved, should a sequel get made, as I would want to grow the mythology and the world. I see it like Indiana Jones where you can have all these separate adventures.

[Note: A few days after this interview we were delighted to hear that CineCoup had given the green light for WolfCop 2 which Dean will also direct.]

In terms of feature films, you’ve got two under your belt and both are genre movies. Do you see yourself sticking to horror and, if so, does it concern you that critics and audiences may label you as a genre filmmaker?

That doesn’t bother me really. I would just be happy to keep making films frankly. It is so hard in reality to get movies made that I’ll take a label for now. I’d much rather fight to get rid of a label than not get to make movies. I love genre and WolfCop is such a great experience. It was so much fun and so rewarding and I actually feel that this is the tone of movies I’d like to make. If it does well then I’ve got three or four scripts lined up and waiting to go. I have a variety of scripts including the WolfCop 2 idea I mentioned as well as that old zombie script that I never got to make which I think is a very unique take on the zombie genre.

We’d like to thank Lowell for taking the time to speak with us and wish him the best of luck with WolfCop (and the sequel). Lou Garou will be howling into cinemas around Canada on the 6th of June and we hope to be able to report a UK release date some time soon. In the meantime we’ll leave you with this featurette providing some insight into the process of designing and bringing Wolfcop to life…

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Interviews

‘Plastic’ Magic Red Carpet Ride UK Premiere

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plasticThis week sees the release of Plastic, a British crime thriller that centres around a diamond heist.

With the growing profiles of its hot young cast we caught up with them and the film’s inspiration to find out about the film and why the heist movie is still such a popular genre.

First up the red carpet is Saq Ahmed, the inspiration for Plastic’s incredible heist story. On seeing his life transferred to the big screen he simply states, ‘It’s my story, not all of it but I’m hoping there will be a book too. I don’t want to give away what happens but it’s real.’ The enthusatic creator does stress that although the film centres around criminal activities it’s not glorification and ‘it doesn’t all end well.’ Although the film aims to inject excitement Ahmed states his actions have had a profound effect on his life. ‘For example, I’ve been married four times, have five kids and am only forty one. I’m hoping people can learn from my mistakes. It’s a lesson to kids, go the right way not the wrong way.’

The film features an up-and-coming cast of young Brits that have a mix of exciting work between them. ‘They’re unbelievable, really amazing. You know Will [Poulter]’s got a Bafta. Seb [De Souza], what a good looking kid he is. I mean I don’t swing that way but if I did, but seriously he’s a good kid. Ed [Speleers] is in Downton Abbey and I don’t want to give anything away but he’s in a big film soon. Emma [Rigby] is working out in L.A. They’re all doing so well’. With their growing success we asked what the cast were like to work with on set?

‘Really good to be honest, I don’t really like actors but these kids they all get along and work hard. You feel that connection in the film.’ When asked to describe the film for our readers Ahmed simply says ‘Watch it. It’s Orange Wednesday tomorrow. Go see and enjoy’.

Next we got to speak breifly to Downton Abbey actor Ed Speleers. With the brilliant work he’s doing elsewhere what attracted him to the role of Sam? ‘Well hes effectively the leader of the group, I think I can say that’. It’s a fair statement as it’s his character, Sam that plans the scams the boys pull in the film. ‘Hes been running the heists for a while and because of Yatesey’s mistakes he has to come up with a large sum of money fast’. On mentioning his cast Speleers is quick to praise his fellow actors. ‘They’re lovely, really great. I’m really lucky to do what I do for a living anyway but this has been a real joy’. The film sees the plot shift to Miami which he describes as ‘an interesting place with a lot going on at the moment.’

Will Poulter makes his way up the red carpet and greets us enthusiastically. The EE Rising Star Bafta winner told us that his attraction to the film and role is due to the fact that ‘he spent a year at University and it’s sort of sad but the reality is that there is a lack of opportunities for young people. A degree, hard work and investment don’t necessarily have a gain on the other side and that’s tough. Everyone at Universities pulling some kind of hustle whether it’s cooking burgers in your back garden and selling them or criminal activities. The films not endorsing this but it does tread lightly over the concept.’

We asked Poulter why people are so attracted to the heist movie genre and if he had a favourite heist film?

‘I hope this counts as a heist movie, Matchstick Men with Nic Cage. It’s one of my favourites and it has a great twist like this film and it’s really exciting’. The Bafta winner can be seen next in The Maze Runner as well as Glassland with Michael Smiley and Toni Colette which he said was ‘amazing to film’. He hopes we check them out and we wish the charismatic young actor all the best. As he leaves me and my editor I go into what can only be described as a fan girl moment over the bubbly young Brit.

We had a quick chat to the producers of the film who said the film ‘had been twelve year’s in the making. We met with Ahmed to hear his story, we had a chat, had a laugh and what got us was the story. These kids conned major credit cards out of large sums of money. It’s based on a real story and not condoning the actions, it’s incredible what they did. You have to give these guys a break if they weren’t criminals they would have been investment bankers.’ The trio make a great point as they promote their work and hot young cast. ‘We didn’t want to make just another London gangster movie.’ On the cast ‘They were brilliant, we’ve been so lucky as all the cast have gone on to bigger things since. If we tried to cast them now we’d call up and be HOW MUCH?’

Next up is newcomer Sebastian De Souza who joins the cast after his spell in the finale series of Skins. He described his first premiere as ‘great, really amazing. There’s this whole vibe that I really didn’t expect. It’s been a big shock for me because it’s a great film and I really enjoyed making it but you do wonder is anyone really gonna show up?’ The actor also has Kids in Love coming out later this year which he wrote so we had to ask how that was going. ‘Its going great, it’s very like Plastic in a sense. It’s not a heist movie though, I don’t only do heist movies. It’s about young people and it’s great that young people are getting a voice in British film. It’s great working with a bunch of young actors. When you work with, dare I say, old people they want to go to bed early but there was none of that with us’. De Souza leaves us to excitedly continue his walk up the red carpet.

The last up the red carpet is Emma Rigby. The film is very male dominated so how did Rigby deal with being the only girl on set? ‘I had no problems at all really. I think they had a bigger issue handling me honestly.’ UK audiences know Rigby from her role of Hannah in soap Hollyoaks but how was it switching to a film set? ‘No different really, I’m lucky to do my job and a set is a set. You are there to portray a character and that’s what I wanted to do’. We wish Rigby good luck out in L.A. and with the film’s release.

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Bobcat Goldthwait Talks Willow Creek

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willow-creekNow might not be the best time to go camping as Sasquatch sightings are expected to be reported all across the UK in the light of today’s cinema release of director Bobcat Goldthwait‘s found-footage horror/thriller Willow Creek.

Gallant enough to label his latest affair “The Blair Squatch Project” and well aware of the found footage fatigue phenomenon, Goldthwait decided to challenge himself by filming what what would best be described as a ‘shockumentary’ in Bigfoot territory. For those in the dark, Willow Creek and the surrounding area is where Bigfoot became a household name in the ‘60s when caught on film by Patterson and Gimlin.

Most renowned for his zany characters Zed in the Police Academy franchise and Bill Murray’s co-star Eliot in Scrooged Goldthwait quit acting when “no one wanted to hire him anymore” (his words) and turned his hand to maverick movie directing. We spoke to Bobcat all about Willow Creek, his decisions to head off in search of Bigfoot, why on earth he decided to make a found footage movie when he is by no means a fan and his thoughts on the upcoming Police Academy reboot.

So first up, is it true that the real driving force behind you choosing to do a Bigfoot movie was that you wanted to ‘unpussify’ the sasquatch image that Steven Spielberg had created?

Well yeah. I mean somebody cut off Sasquatch’s balls somewhere along the line. Basically when they were doing Harry and the Hendersons they were like “Oh man, we can’t have a dick hanging out!” And then obviously Chewbacca didn’t wear pants either did he?

So you wanted to bring back his masculinity or, more seriously, is Bigfoot something that you have always been genuinely interested in?

No, actually I drove around California for about 1400 miles in my car just driving around visiting famous Bigfoot sites and that wasn’t with any intention of making a movie. That was just my idea of having a good time. Making this movie was really just a by-product.

As a matter of fact, before I went to Willow Creek I had intended to do something more like a Christopher Guest style comedy but when I got there I just felt that a found footage movie was the right thing to do, even though I was well aware that people are tired of so many of these types of movies. I saw it as a challenge to make this type of film.

Absolutely, reading a lot of reviews for the film many crtics actually came away with the idea that you must be a massive found-footage fan but they couldn’t be farther from the truth, right?

No, I’m not a fan at all. I mean, I always wonder like “Who is the creep that edited that movie after they found this footage?” I mean it’s like “Hey here’s some footage of some people who got killed! If I cut it a bit I can make a tremendous motion picture!” Apart from that there are a lot of things, simple things like why is the camera still running? These were all challenges for me when making this film.

Watching the film I got the sense that most of the film was very improviso. It didn’t at all come across as a tightly scripted affair or am I totally wrong?

We went with a very small crew and the few actors and crew would camp out together and stuff. There wasn’t an actual screenplay. It was a twenty five page outline but the funny thing was that some of the stuff that seemed like ad-libby stuff was actually very scripted. Then some of the key scenes that I thought maybe should have been scripted, but weren’t at all, came out really well. The proposal scene for me was great and on the outline it just said “Jim asks Kelly to marry him.” That’s all. But then things like at the beginning when Bryce (Johnson) is trying to be a presenter, that stuff is very scripted and I think the reason I scripted that bit so much was that I was trying to explain to Bryce who this guy is and then once he got that he was off and racing.

A pleasant surprise I got was discovering that all the people interviewed in the film were not actually actors but locals who thought they were being interviewed for a documentary. How did you actually come across these folk? Did you discover them on your travels or were they introduced to you by others who thought they would make for great interviewees?

Yeah, some of them I came aross on my own in the past and others we literally discovered when we were up there. The trick of all that is not to have an agenda. I kind of knew that if we spoke to enough people we would get what we needed. The more I direct the more I realise the need to lose that sense of panic. You know, it’s like when you are filming a documentary and are about to turn off the camera and then suddenly someone says something and the whole thing just turns right round.

And did you actually let the people in on what you were doing after you had interviewed them? If so, how did they react?

465WCC_01142306Well, I did tell Stephen at Bigfoot Books what kind of movie we were doing because I thought that he would be really key. I think he does a really good job of laying a lot of the story for us. But a lot of people I didn’t tell them just because I thought saying to them “Hey can we interview you for a horror movie?” would be just too much information. I have had screenings of the film near to Willow Creek where the majority of them showed up and they seemed to really like the movie a lot. It’s funny, you forget the population is 1400 people and I showed the movie about 40 minutes out of town and as soon as the sign for the town showed up in the film the whole theatre erupted with applause.

Also, whilst I know you at no point are trying to ridicule people in this movie there are some scenes where the couple are obviously poking fun at the legend of Bigfoot and the people. Did you witness any begrudged reactions in terms of how you portray the legend and the locals?

Well, no. I wasn’t going there to make fun of the people because I myself am a wierdo and outcast but at the same time the folks in this movie are well aware that some of the stuff they believe in is pretty funny. I really wasn’t trying to take anyone down a couple of notches.

Also, when the couple got down near the actual site they come across this irate guy who urges them to leave straight away. It had me asking myself if you had to deal with anyone like that there who didn’t want you filming.

Well it’s not in the movie because I thought it would be kind of too weird for people to believe. I thought it would be easier for people to just think that Bigfoot is running around those woods but there is a lot of pot growing in that part of the woods in an industry that used to be run by hippie types and now there is a large drug cartel there. So, that was one of the things we were warned about when we went making the movie. We were told to be careful to not stumble on anyone’s pot field because they would shoot us.

So did you exploit these warnings and use them to frighten the cast even more to get even more terrified reactions from them when filming?

Ha, well I wouldn’t say that I really needed to warn them. They know that I treat a bad idea with the same amount of enthusiasm as I do a good idea. The first time we shot the tent scene towards the end of the film Bryce actually started crying. I told them I thought it was a great take but I didn’t think his character would actually cry. Bryce said “My character’s not crying. I’m crying. I don’t know why we’re filming this in the middle of the woods when we could film this in the middle of a parking lot.” We’d also see a mountain lion earlier so that was probably why he was spooked out.

We did three takes for that scene but I knew that I just wanted to use a single take so I never thought about editing bits and pieces together. For me the challenge for this movie was I had to edit the movie during the filming. I wanted to make sure the actors were always turning the camera on and off at the beginning and end of each scene so you had to kind of figure out how the scene was going to begin and end and not have coverage.

So to finish off, I know you are always coming up with different ideas for films. I think you have been working on a musical with Ray Davis from The Kinks, maybe a companion piece for World’s Greatest Dad and a gay Western. What have you got planned for the immediate future?

Well I’ve been shooting a documentary right now. I also just finished another screenplay which would best be described as a junkie comedy but I mean I just always like to write and then try to hustle the movies. The difference for me is that a lot of people write the screenplay and go to development and then they have to make compromises and then they make a movie whereas I just constantly write movies and then go out to try and get money so I don’t have to change the way I want to make or see my movies.

Yeah, I read that you actually still do stand-up comedy to help you pay the bills and make the movies that you want to make.

Yeah, that’s totally what I do. I just want to be able to keep making movies on my own terms and stay off of reality shows.

Bobcat-Goldthwait-Police-Academy-3To end then, I imagine you are aware of a planned Police Academy reboot. What are your thoughts on that and if they asked you to reprise your role as Zed would you be up for that?

They say they are going to reboot the series and do what they did to 21 Jump Street. I honestly don’t think they would ask me to come back. I mean, I’m nothing but a pain in the ass to the producers of those films. Having said that, people have a soft spot for those movies so I think if they asked and I didn’t accept to do it then people would think I was a big asshole for not doing it. With that said though, I’m certainly not sitting around badgering my agent going “Hey, did they call yet? You know, I wanna do the ‘Paging Mr. Herman. Mr. Pee-wee Herman.’”

OK so reboots aside, I know you stopped acting when they stopped hiring you but if people did start hiring you again would you be up for getting back into the acting business?

I’m not very interested in acting. I have had offers to either be in things or audition for things but I’ve stayed away from them. This isn’t me fishing for a compliment but I really don’t think I’m a very good actor and the more I make movies the more I become aware of that. I have a new found respect for peope who try the camera.

We’d like to thank Bobcat for taking time to speak to us and we urge you to catch WILLOW CREEK when it hits cinemas on 2nd May and DVD on 26th May. We’ll leave you wth the trailer.

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