Your new movie Beauty
Sleep - in a few words, what is it about?
is a subversive portrait of contemporary identity loss.
were your key inspirations when dreaming up Beauty
begin with a theme and build a story around that. Truths
are complex carbohydrates that can be stretched at fantastical lengths
whereas falsities are simple starches that, although may taste good, may
taste familiar, and may satisfy
commercial conventions, are stories aiming to make its viewer feel full
rather than contribute towards fulfillment.
That motive and its key theme – as long as we remain self-consumed, we
remain sedated – were both of its key inspirations.
Sleep at least in my eyes is an associative rather than narrative
movie, did you ever run the danger of losing your story in the movie's
you integrate dream logic to dramatic structure, you run the risk of
losing your story and your audience. We continue to be at risk and always receive hate
it or love it reactions based on their associations.
Firstly, differentiating experimental
and surrealism is key.
Experimental films danger their stories as its artist chases their next
instinct without judgment whereas surreal films use symbols to serve its
definite theme. On the surface, Blue
Velvet (1986) is about a young man who embarks on the mystery of a
battered lounge singer, but its theme… which the opening montage plays
out, is about the bugs, the monsters, that brood underneath our white-picket fence American
Sleep’s story is not at
risk – everything was done on purpose with purpose -- but its interpretation,
its relationship with the audience individually
will always be. For example, we have been met with warm embrace AND
cold festival declines – horror festivals
– because, as one programmer put it, “Although our film is very
interesting, the film does not fit into
our program as a whole” amongst sub-genre conventions; the slasher, the
ghost, etc. Our main danger is the public’s perception of what horror
“is supposed to be” rather than what it “could” be.
You of course have to talk about the
film's rather unique look and feel for a bit, and how was all of this
are more than right when they say I am artsy, because I come from a
graphic novel background. I used to illustrate genre-blending comics to
high school classmates. Further more, I have a great personal connection
to painting. No Photoshop to serve, no music to suggest, no magic of
editing… art in its purest form. With this film, and what my film eye
ultimately is, is to incorporate moving paintings. Beauty
direction from the start was distortions
and set out to have its protagonist act more as a conduit than a character in a narrative
film, to take us through her nightmares… and because she was to
represent the average 9-5 modern citizen, to take us through our own.
The overlaps, the backwards acting, the sharp synth sounds,
the static, and the laugh tracks were mutant tools to paint this optical
world; our world slightly askew.
What can you tell us about your lead and only
actress, Maura Stephens, and what made her perfect for the role? And what
was your collaboration like?
character is not only a shade of herself, but is a darkness her compassion
recognizes in strangers, something her heart would not keep
in the shade. Not far from the truth, she once told me that she saw
“Mary Lynn”, a young girl physically aching of loneliness waiting
for her bus. She feels more deeply than the average person both as a
performer and person. Sometimes my job is to harness that fire with
petroleum retardant gel to protect herself from herself where other times
my job is simply to spray a path of lighter fluid for her to burn, to run
with, to take over. And the thing with fire
is that, given the right perimeters, can bend and manipulate any form, any
story, which is why she is a staple of my films for many to come whether
it be comedy, conventional drama, and so forth.
You also have to talk about
the music used in your film for a bit!
Curtis Berndt/Airplanes Over Johannesburg is the Trent Reznor to my Fincher, the Angelo
Badalamenti to my David Lynch. We are a nocturnal brotherhood shining
light to the dark and seeking to darken the light. I often times have him
study, or crack out his iPod in all honesty, to songs, sounds that not
only may have a technical layer I want us to explore, but an overall feel.
Much invention is innovation, knowing which waters we’ve chartered,
and consciously building upon those ideas. We had to dedicate the film to John
Carpenter. There was one sequence in particular we call “the ghost
tunnel” that rifted off a track from Escape
from New York, except we turned it into something more operatic as if
it were a cheese sandwich melting
under an angry sun. That wasn’t the way I had worded it in studio,
but I bet it was the elephant in the room, haha!
sensibilities, if it were a cardinal sign, would be air. Like the wind,
whispers, wailings… his scores can be as if it were feelings breathing.
We share the same key influences – Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Krysztof
Penderecki, Trent Reznor – amongst many obscure findings from either
side. I am a huge fan of music. Most of my stories claw their way out from
instrumentals. Curtis is an extension of my craft as much as Maura is a
rare muse. She is most fit to bring up when talking about the film’s
music, because although she does not play, the way she feels through
scenes has its own metronome that Curtis and I both recognize while in
studio, while speaking about the concepts of her performances.
What can you tell
us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
key to our circus family – Maura Stephens, Curtis Berndt, Ashley
Robinson, and I – is pulling people close who will keep each other in
check: steel sharpens steel. The examples go in circles: Maura convinced
me to re-vamp our surprise in
the film, Curtis composed a score devised from my recording of riding a
desolate bus, and Ashley was a ghost of sensible gems weaving in-and-out
of all departments. No matter the situation, that interaction is
There are many spoilers to be shared, but what I will say is that everyone
was transient in their contributions. Each department powered the other: a
powerful performance could not be if it weren’t for bold filmmaking,
scenes would not feel dangerous if
it weren’t for the cerebral music made of primal FX, and the music would
not have a story within its obscurities to
tell if it weren’t for an actress who could carry the weight of its
$64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the
sometime before Christmas, our version of Krampus haha. But as a special
thank you for readers, fans, and affiliates, who ever reads this
- password: doppelganger
Any future projects you'd like to share?
the first time since entering the local scene in 2010, we have registered
into a local 72hr Film Challenge; Sparta. Our film is called, Blackout, a psychological horror film. More conventional, however,
spookiness ensues in different shapes and forms, following two women
trapped in a motel during a global blackout. I won’t divulge too much,
but “Claire Harris” – played by Angela Parent – is an acronym of
the two female protagonists in The
Haunting (1963), which Blackout acts as a certain love letter
the record, I do believe in “Never show the monster” technique, however,
unless you construct a monster the audience could never had imagined
Monsters, The Thing (1982), Guillermo Del Toro’s work –
celebrate the monster. It depends what type of story you are
serving. For example, if you showed the
ghosts in The Changeling (1980),
it would fall flat. Its suggestions cut deep, because of its mystery
story. However, if you kept every
threat in the shadows, it would be a dish getting cold. I bring this
up because there is a third way,
which is most ominous where you think
you know, but you don’t know
– Michael Myers in
Psycho’s (1960) shower scene, and Black Christmas (1974) – which is
the tradition Blackout is going. You may feel you are getting a
bright-as-day look at the horror, but find yourself soon after not knowing
how to place it.
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
Growing up watching
TV too close, especially catching certain films that found their way to
re-wire me. Not in a protester’s picket-sign way where movies are
dangerous to a child’s mind, rather, for me movies opened myself to the
magic of life through that child’s eyes. My guts are in the horror genre
and the catalyst really was people, the news, questioning authority, fear
of authority, fear of aging, of sickness, nightmares. Film was a boiling
kettle of all my passions I explored and embedded throughout my life; a
I have no formal
training and don’t believe anyone is “self-taught” because my bible
is Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel Without
a Crew, his 10 minute film schools, audio commentaries by David
Fincher, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, interviews with Clive Barker,
Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, and essays on Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley
Kubrick, Roman Polanski.
I would not say the
best way to learn is to start. The better
way is to start, but you have to continue finding a way towards
becoming your best. Pressure can bust pipes or create diamonds. I believe
in refining your strengths and always being excited to find your
boundaries, so you can push them.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
Two gears of mine
– as a writer/director
– would be the importance of vision, having
vision, with room for romance. Yes,
romance. That doesn’t mean extravagant
either. Simple is a style too, a very difficult one that calls for precise
premeditation. Vision is my bottom-line at the end of each film, each
scene, each written line… what is
its meaning? Does it know its
meaning? To find its poetry, it has to find the root of its pain.
is only an extension of my writing, to express the words in-between the lines that someone just reading for
the who, what, when, where, and why’s may not adjust their eyes to, may
not know exists… co-exists rather with the
subject matter. I feel I’m more of a parent just trying to raise their
children to lead fulfilling lives whether they have the answers or
continue to ask the right questions. A romantic visionary; a description
some will see odd while others may find themselves oddly agreeing with.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Wood [Ed Wood bio - click here].
There are many, but
never far too many. For Beauty
Sleep, the ones amongst my favourites that
got together and conspired this crime haha were Carnival
of Souls (1962), Repulsion (1965),
They Live (1988), Videodrome (1983),
Eraserhead (1977), Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Suspiria (1977).
Argento is arguably my greatest unsung influence on technique,
storyboarding, and instincts. His philosophy with music and image, how
when both are synonymous, creates a new level of experience; a note that
no stage play or song could ever hit, ever stir the soul. Suspiria
(1977) is arguably my favorite film because it truly is
like stepping into someone’s dream;
cinema in its most purest form. All departments come together like an
opera and it truly shows the importance of having vision. The script is
familiar, however, how he executes the story belongs up there to
preserve, to study, to even have in a museum!
... and of course, films you really
film that is a factory of bubblegum emotions, that campaigns to satisfy
the most carnal needs of the human condition. The definition of
pornography is typecasted. Its most true meaning should also
be applied to something commercial that has no artistic and/or spiritual
merit. You can fill in the margins with whichever marquees you see fit.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
main FB: www.facebook.com/bunnydoomsday
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
only send-off would be for everyone to live the poetry, to get
it in camera. If it didn’t happen in camera, it didn’t happen! I
see a lot of aspiring filmmakers. I want to tell them to become perspiring
filmmakers haha because if you aren’t bleeding, crying, and sweating
to shoot films, you aren’t working fast enough. I believe you when
you say you are working hard, but life is a countdown you can’t afford
to not make each day count. While you are counting your blessings, someone
is counting their strength, the
one that starts in you. It can’t be given. It can’t be bought. No one
else is going to write it, no one else is going to direct it, and hell no
one else could ever dream it.
The only who-what-when-where-why you need to know is when.
The rest will fall into place if your when
starts now. Much love and
Thanks for the interview!