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An Interview with Amy Hesketh, Director and Star of Olalla

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2015

Amy Hesketh on (re)Search my Trash


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We have talked about this before [click here], but do bring us up to speed: Your new movie Olalla - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character (or characters, rather)?


My film is based on the story, Olalla, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The film picks up where the story leaves off, I imagine what eventually happens to Stevenson's Olalla, and her family. I created a decadent, incestuous, extended family as well. Imagine a family of vampires, genetic vampires, who live somewhat longer than most people, they drink blood to stay alive. It's a disease, if you will, but a secret one that they have guarded all these years. They have romanticized their disease; they do not wish to find a cure.


My character of Olalla in the past is a woman who cannot escape from her family, the weight of tradition, the burden of her disease. She romanticizes martyrs and saints, the trials and horrible things to which they were subjected. As her brother tells her, marriage is not an option for someone like her, she is a monster, and so her only escape from her life is a worse fate, that of martyrdom.

Her daughter, many years later, also named Olalla, is a product of the continued decadence, and decline of the family. She wants to be normal, and like her mother, she wants to escape the confines of her disease and her family, but is trapped in this continued state of despair by her desire to kill.


What did you draw upon to bring both characters to life, and did you approach them any differently? And how much of Amy Hesketh can we find in either Olalla? And was it clear for you that you'd play both characters from the get-go?


I wanted to play the two roles from the time I began thinking about the characters, and writing the script. Playing both roles, becoming so involved in the film from both sides, it was emotionally cathartic.

There is something of me in Olalla, as there is something of me in all of the characters in the film. Like in a Jungian-interpreted dream, every character represents an aspect of my Self.


While Olalla is based on a lesser known (yet widely available) story by Robert Louis Stevenson, you have taken quite a few liberties with the source material - so what drew you to Stevenson's story, how did your attention get drawn to the story in the first place, and what can you tell us about your additions to it?


At the time I envisioned the film, I was in my old house in Maine, taking care of my father, who was very ill. Suffice to say, it was a difficult experience, and I needed to transform a lot of that pain and complicated feelings into something else; Art.

I found a copy of Olalla in a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson stories in my attic. I re-read the story and was instantly inspired. Robert Louis Stevenson, himself, felt that the story was unfinished, undeveloped. I felt the same way. The themes he introduces in the story are powerful; family, incest, religion, post-traumatic stress, the pressures of society upon women, just to name a few. I followed the lead he introduces in the story, and developed the themes, intensely elaborating, and extrapolating them; imagining how a family like that would progress over time.


With Olalla being a vampire movie, just like Dead But Dreaming before it, is that a genre at all dear to you, and your personal views on the genre as such?


Since I was a little girl, vampires have fascinated me. The idea of a being that feeds upon human beings, looks like us, but is not. Something that does simply take, and does not give back.-

For me, Robert Louis Stevenson's genetic vampires were a different way of seeing vampirism, more as a disease. But a disease that, within a family, has become more than an affliction, it has become their very reason to keep going, almost a religion, with a philosophy of existence, and incorporated rituals.


What can you tell us to your directorial approach to your story at hand?


It's always difficult to direct a film, and act in it as well. So, in that aspect, I had to do a lot of preparation for what I wanted from each scene, and communicate very well what I wanted with my crew. As for directing the cast, I had very specific characters in mind for the family, and had them work together in group rehearsals.


Again, we have talked about this before [click here], but anything you can add about your cast?


Amy with Luis Almanza

Mila Joya, Jac Avila

Fermin Nunez, Roberto Lopez L.

Erix Antoine

Rosario and Varinia Huanca

Working with Luis Almanza for the first time was great, he was a pro, and really listened to my direction. He was very subtle, and played off of my character well. We had good chemistry for the film, and had a lot of fun on set.


Christian del Rio was also a newcomer, and contributed not only his acting, but his incredible musical talents to the soundtrack. The film benefits so much from this talent, it's astounding. I hadn't entirely decided on what songs he would sing in the scenes of the film, and he came up with a bunch on the spot, standing, in costume in the middle of a cobblestone road in the middle of nowhere. It was amazing.


Mila Joya was absolutely wonderful in the film as Olalla's sister. I was so impressed with how she developed her character for this film. She became very involved with her wardrobe, hair, her attitude toward my character. She's grown so much as an actress, and it really shows in this film.


Jac [Jac Avila interview - click here], as usual, had an issue with how awful his character is, he joked that "but he's likeable... really, he's just keeping everyone in line!" He did such a great job getting into character, he was so creepy, that he made me feel sick during our scenes together. That speaks volumes.


Maria Esther was absolutely captivating as Aunt Aurora. Her cool steely glances makes one feel like they are in the presence of the matriarch of the family. She always has great suggestions about her character; I enjoy working with her.


The two uncles, played by Beto and Fermin, rehearsed for hours their gestures. I envisioned them as twins, like the Fall of the House of Usher, in which the brother and sister share a soul. Based on the script, they came up with an arsenal of gestures, and practiced them all with timing with their dialogues. They heavily choreographed their performance.


Erix Antoine was great as Bruno. He took lessons in how to move, gesture, talk, from his two gay uncles. When they saw the film, they were delighted with his performance. He also had great ideas about his wardrobe, which helped him get into character, like wearing ladies nylon knee-highs with his loafers, instead of men's socks.


The two girls, Varinia (young Olalla) and Rosario (young Ofelia) Huanca were a real find. A stroke of luck, fate, whatever you want to call it. We had intended to cast the two girls before we went to the location in Potosi (the hacienda in the 1880s scenes), but had absolutely no luck. Then, the first day of shooting, their father, Jaime, brought them to the set to see if one of them could work. We took a break from a scene, and I walked over to meet them. I was astounded by how much they resembled Mila and I. Rosario's gestures, even her voice, were so naturally like Mila. And Valeria, she naturally had the same gestures as my character. Working with them was such a wonderful experience, they were both so patient, and good about getting into their costumes, I have no doubt that if they choose to continue on the path of acting, they'll go far.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We shot the contemporary scenes in a house here in La Paz, which belongs to two of my very good friends, Miguel Angel and Rodrigo. They were so welcoming and wonderful to allow us to shoot there. It's an amazing location, I often like to have a location that's so beautiful and full of history that it becomes a character in the film. This house was perfect, and it was a joy to shoot in a relaxed atmosphere, to be able to take a time out and sit at a real table in a dining room and have a cup of tea.


The second location was in Cayara, Potosi, in a Hotel/Museum there. It's an amazing location, very green, a tiny village. The owner, Arturo, was welcoming and accommodating. We brought this huge wooden cross with us to set up for the final burning scene. Not only did he put it up where exactly I wanted it, in the open space in front of the chapel, but made a cement and stone base for it as well. It was so great to be able to shoot round the clock, and then relax in a room in the hacienda itself, knowing that everything was happening on schedule. A lot of that was due to Jac's [Jac Avila interview - click here] stellar production on the film, of course.


One rather unsavory anecdote, however, happened the first day of shooting. I insisted that I wanted a donkey for the first scene, when the Priest and Robert are walking to the hacienda. An animal always improves a scene, in my opinion. I pushed, and pushed, and finally Jac found me my donkey. Everything was fine until the donkey decided that it had had enough, and wanted to have lunch, and took off down the road. Unfortunately, I was holding its tether at the time, which got wound around my hand, and so the donkey dragged me after it down the gravel road, causing some significant bodily injury to yours truly. I now cannot look at a donkey without having shivers of angst.


A few words about critical and audience reception of your movie so far?


It's been wonderful here as well as in the USA and Europe. We've received great criticism from many areas. People who have seen the film in the theater here have contacted me personally to congratulate me on the film, my direction, the cinematography, the acting, everything.

Here are some excerpts from three critiques of the film:


"Olalla is a freeform adaptation, brought to the present day, that uses collective memory as a device and finds in its situations a fertile ground on which to generate an environment of tension required by the staging. Considering this is Hesketh’s fourth film, a maturity in the work is clear, as well as attention to her craft."

- Claudio Sánchez for the newspaper Cambio


"There has been a huge explosion in recent years of great female horror film directors who are transgressing boundaries with gory, exciting, thought-provoking blood baths. Amy Hesketh, an American writer-director-producer-actress working out of La Paz, Bolivia is a name that should be on everybody’s lips when they talk about female horror film directors..."

- Jonathan Weichsel for


"Amy Hesketh’s Olalla would have become a favorite film of mine even without the Vampires. And I know my female Vampires... Olalla is a Vampire like no other, and Olalla is a Vampire film like no other."

- C. Dean Andersson (Horror Writer)


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Our next big project, which I'll be directing, is an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Think Day for Night meets 8 1/2 meets Stardust Memories, but super sexy as well.


After that, we're shooting an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's Justine, directed by Jac Avila [Jac Avila interview - click here], which I'll be starring in as Justine, and producing. I anticipate that it will be (again) a difficult role for me, as well as having some very (VERY) arduous scenes for my character. At this point in my experience as an actress, I know it's something I can handle.


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And, as always, I'm writing a new script that is a contemporary Gothic Horror tale, which involves a lot of power-play relationships.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Thanks for the interview!


Thank you, Mike!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD