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An Interview with C.A. Cooper, Director of The Snare

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2016

Films directed by C.A. Cooper on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie The Snare - in a few words, what is it about?


The Snare is a psychological horror about three friends who head to the seafront for the weekend, only to be imprisoned on the top floor of their holiday apartment by a malevolent paranormal force that proceeds to cut off their resources, manipulate, torture and starve them, ultimately driving them insane.


What were your sources of inspiration for writing The Snare?


There were many influences on The Snare although I would say some of the strongest were the works of Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, William Friedkin and Lars Von Trier. The Shining and The Exorcist for me are the two greatest horror films of all time so I always draw from those.


The Snare leaves much of its plot open to interpretation - so telling a story that way, how hard is it for you as a writer not to get lost in the process?


I find the writing process to be very challenging and very difficult in its entirety and would certainly stress that for me itís the single most important part of any project. When it came to creating a plot open to interpretation, in the case of The Snare, I felt that it was very important that I, as the writer/director, knew exactly what was going on in the apartmentÖ as in who/what the paranormal presence was in the apartment. Why it was there? How long had it been there? etc. It was essential for me to ultimately know the answers to everything and to know the world. This would then allow me to choose what to reveal and at what point along with what to hold back and what to allude to and so on. I personally believe that what makes stories of ghosts and the paranormal frightening is that they are mysterious, we donít understand them and we donít have the answers, so I wanted audiences to be able to draw their own conclusions from the paranormal incidences that took place in The Snare and form their own personal interpretation.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror!


So much of what you see on screen in The Snare was done for real from the dramatic weight loss of the cast to the eating of live spiders and maggots. It was very important to me that the fear felt by the actors onscreen was real so the actual production itself and the manner in which the film was shot was designed to capture this.

Audiences should expect a very raw, real and visceral experience when it comes to the performances on a level that you would not typically find in your average horror flick.


You of course also have to talk about your location for a bit, and did you write the script with that specific location in mind, or did you only find it afterwards - and in what way did the location shape the movie?


Yes I wrote the script based around the location. It was filmed in Bournemouth by the coast, which is approx. a 2 hour drive from London, where myself, the cast and crew are all based. The apartment actually belonged to my girlfriendís parents and is based right by the sea as seen in the film (although at a different beach Ė we had to drive much further out for the one that was used in the film). In the tradition of low budget filmmaking, I just looked at the resources I had available and designed the film with those in mind.


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


I always envisaged the film from the start as a very raw, intense, performance-driven piece and was adamant from day one that everything onscreen needed to be performed for real (or at least as real as physically possible). Most importantly, the fear felt by the actors onscreen needed to be real. I felt this was necessary in order to push the actors to the physical and emotional extremes that were required for the piece to work and to truly immerse audiences in what would be a fresh, raw and honest experience.

To achieve this I felt that the following approach was essential:

Firstly, I believed that from the moment the cast arrived on set at the apartment that they should not be allowed to leave. My plan was that the actors were to eat, sleep and live in the apartment seen in the film and that they would not be allowed to leave the apartment either, just like in the film.

Secondly, everything needed to be controlled, from their diets, to their sleep patterns, their hygiene, their down time and their anxiety levels.

Thirdly, I needed to convince them that the apartment was genuinely haunted so this was rigged and prepped by myself and the crew months in advance. I felt that if the paranormal elements of the film were to appear convincing then the actors would need to be fully convinced themselves. We rigged doors to slam shut on cue, lights to black out unexpectedly and would trash their bedrooms and move their things around during filming.

Finally, everything needed to be shot in chronological order so that the physical and mental deterioration of the actors was consistent. The only exception to this would be the dream sequences and when make-up would need to be applied to dramatize key aesthetic elements.

It was always my intention to place audiences right in the centre of the film so that they could experience it in the most visceral sense possible.


Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?


As this was my first film, when it came to casting, it was mostly about trust and practicality. I held auditions in the hope of discovering people who I felt I could push to the physical and emotional extremes required for the roles.

During filming, I wanted to strictly simulate the experience of being trapped for an extended period without food or water to such an extent that the actors would genuinely begin to physically and mentally deteriorate. As I mentioned before, the shooting schedule was designed to capture this chronologically as it took place and the plan was for the actors to actually eat, sleep and live in the apartment seen in the film.

From the start I had always envisaged the film as a very intense, performance driven piece so I wanted the fear felt by the actors to be real and so for me an approach like this was essential. The cast needed to be able to handle this and stick it out.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a very claustrophobic and oppressive environment for all of us as myself, the cast and the crew were all living in the actual apartment thatís seen in the film. There were just a few small rooms and a kitchen as seen in the trailer. What made it worse was that none of us were allowed to leave. Itís something we all agreed upon beforehand of course so we all knew what weíd be in for, but that didnít make it any less traumatic. We would wake up in the morning, push our stuff to the side and start shooting. There was no escape from it. The world of the film and the real world fused as one and we were all literally living in it. Eaoifa Forward, the actress who plays Alice, actually lived in Aliceís room and slept in Aliceís bed as seen in the film. It was a very frightening place to be. None of us could ever go back there.


The $64-question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?


The Snare is being released theatrically across select US cinemas from Jan 6th. The DVD will hit stores Mar 7th followed by Video On Demand.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Snare yet?


Itís very early days still, so difficult to tell at this point, but a few early reviews have gone out and so far the response has been fantastic which is great. Weíll have a much better idea of how itís doing once it starts playing in theaters. Without a doubt, some people will be offended, sickened and disgusted by aspects of the filmís content, whereas others will really enjoy those same aspects. Ideally the film will provoke a strong response either way.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Yes, I currently have two feature film projects in the early stages of development. One of these is an intense, suspense driven thriller focused around a father/son conflict set against the backdrop of a suicide cult. The other is a dread laden, hard hitting, psychological horror with a unique high concept hook that is somewhat of a crossover between The Exorcist (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976).


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I havenít ever had any formal training and would consider myself self-taught as a filmmaker. I started making amateur films as a hobby from around 12 years old and made a feature film every year between the ages of 15 to 18. They mostly featured my friends from school and were just made for fun really and were never intended to be seen by audiences. The Snare on the other hand was intended for a commercial release right from the start.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Snare?


Iíve always been directing shorts although predominantly with a technical focus in order to develop my craft. They werenít ever really intended to be shown to anyone or entered into festivals or anything like that. After I left education I started working on studio films and commercials in the camera/video dept. as a day job whilst working freelance on the side as a cinematographer. Working as a cinematographer was really useful as I was able work closely with other directors and watch them at work. However, that said, what I mostly observed was how NOT to direct a film and took note of what to avoid doing at all costs, which was very useful when it came to directing and producing my own project.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Thatís a difficult question to answer as itís not something Iíve ever really thought about before. The cast and crew often describe me as a perfectionist, primarily because I tend to do a lot of takes. I think the most we did at one point on The Snare was 39. I believe that itís important to take the time to do things properly and get them right.

I feel itís important that the relationships you have on set are very honest, especially with the actors, so I take a strict ďno-bullshitĒ approach. The actors Iíve worked with know that they can trust me and thatís very important as it means they can rest assured that I will tell them honestly and very directly whether or not I feel something is working. I feel this helps to give actors the confidence to experiment and try different things until we discover something that really works or perhaps works even better than what we had been exploring previously.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


There are many. The list is quite extensive as different filmmakers inspire me in different ways, but I would say Stanley Kubrick in particular as I have a profound respect for his approach to the craft.


Your favourite movies?


Thatís a very difficult question to answer. My favourite films of all time span across a vast variety of genres and I hold them all in equal regard. If I had to pick one though I would say 2001: A Space Odyssey.


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I donít think so, I think thatís everything covered :)


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
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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