Your new film From
Beneath - in a few words, what is it about?
Beneath is about a couple whose relationship
is on the rocks. The audience
is introduced to them on their way to visit Samís (the leading woman)
sister and her family at their new house in the middle of nowhere.
Once they get there, they find the place empty and decide to do a
little exploring while they wait for the sister to return.
They come upon a pond and, being hot and sweaty from the car trip,
decide to take a dip. When
they get out of the pond, they find that some weird leech-like creatures
are crawling on them and one seems to have crawled inside Jasonís (the
leading man) leg. They return
to the house, time passes and the sister still doesnít return.
Meanwhile, the wound on Jasonís leg begins to worsen and his
mental state begins to deteriorate. So
it becomes a race against time to figure out what happened to the
sisterís family and what lies in store for Jason, faced with his mental
and physical disintegration.
were your main sources of inspiration when writing From
The main sources of inspiration for the story
were claustrophobic horror/thrillers like Alien,
Halloween, The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, etc. I
really liked the idea of containing the drama in one location and
challenging myself to keep the suspense as high as possible within this
one space. Iíve always
really admired Alfred Hitchcockís movie Rope
for that reason. So that was
probably a unconscious inspiration. Iíve
always loved creature features, especially the well-done ones like John
Carpenterís The Thing and
David Cronenbergís The Fly.
So those really informed my approach to the creatures and body
Beneath is pretty much a two-character play. Was this concept a
conscious decision from the beginning on, or did it just develop that way,
That was definitely a
conscious decision from the get-go. From
Beneath was my first feature. That
being the case, I knew Iíd be working with limited resources.
So I really tried to write the movie around what I had access to,
and let the suspense emerge out of the claustrophobia of the situation and
the interrelation of the two characters trapped in this terrible
situation. I took the advice
of filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez to heart, and let the limitations of a
low budget inform the story rather than fight against them by writing a
bigger movie and have it come off seeming less fully realized.
Speaking of a two-character play: What can you
tell us about your leads Lauren Watson and Jamie Temple, and what made
them perfect for their roles in your eyes?
I wanted the characters to feel like a
real 20-something couple. Jamie
Temple and I grew up together making movies and I always felt he had a
natural acting ability. So
when it came time to make my first feature, it was just natural to cast
him in the role. I auditioned
him and he nailed it, so that bit of casting was easy.
We held open auditions for the role of Sam and I remember we were
all blown away when Lauren Watson came in and could cry on cue for an
emotional scene. They were
both good actors and they looked great as a couple, so when we did
callbacks it was clear that Lauren was the best fit.
They felt real and they could both handle the heavier emotional
scenes which was key.
unusual approach, I would still label From
Beneath as a monster movie. A genre you're at all fond of, and
some of your genre favourites?
Iím definitely fond
of monster movies! Theyíre
my absolute guilty pleasure. I
saw Jaws when I was six and
Iíve been hooked ever since. Jaws is the reason I wanted the creature to have an aquatic basis
and also the reason the audience never really gets a good look at the
creature. Other favorites are The
Thing, The Fly, Alien, Aliens and
Sort of mainstream picks, I know, but thereís a reason those
films enjoy the level of notoriety they do, because theyíre absolutely
FANTASTIC! One lesser known
monster movie I love that I feel didnít get enough attention when it was
released was Rogue.
Itís a truly great giant crocodile film thatís almost on par
Two other really excellent newer monster movies are The
Descent and The Mist.
No monster movie without
special effects - so what can you tell us about yours?
Because of our limited
means, I knew that it wouldnít do the film any favors to have a bunch of
crumby CGI sequences that give the audience a good look at the monster.
Instead, I used the CGI more to suggest the presence of the
creature by showing bits and pieces of it and then let the viewers'
imaginations take over. I know
people are sometimes disappointed by this approach, but overall, Iíd say
itís a much more effective way of generating suspense and dread.
I wanted to have a good mix of practical effects and CGI, so
Jasonís bodily deterioration was all done with practical make-up effects
by our amazing make up artists, Jessica Tischer and Laura Murray.
I did all the computer effects myself.
It was a long hard process of trial and error that took months, but
overall, Iím extremely proud of the visual effects in the movie.
would you describe your overall directorial approach to your subject at
Well, my approach was
to keep it as interesting as possible.
Iíve noticed with a lot of first features, filmmakers tend to run
out of places to go around the mid-point of their movies and they often
tend to sag or spin their wheels during the second act.
I really wanted to keep the action progressing and keep the story
driving forward despite the fact that there were only two characters and 1
main location. I also didnít
want the movie to feel constrained by itís budget, so I studied the
filmic grammar of a lot of bigger budget movies and tried to include the
same types of shots you typically see in Hollywood productions like crane
shots and dolly shots. Thereís
a tendency in independent films to either have shaky handheld camerawork
or static tripod camerawork. I
really tried to keep the film visually interesting and fluid, but in an
A few words about your location, and the actual
shoot and on-set atmosphere?
I wrote the whole film based around
knowing I had access to that amazing location.
Whenever I could, Iíd try to linger on the unique aspects the
location offered, stuff like the decrepit barn, the brambles that have
overgrown the property and engulfed cars and fences and old structures,
the unfinished basement. There
was such an amazing atmosphere at that place.
Plus, the cast and crew were all living at the house while we
filmed, so I think that added a sense of verisimilitude to the proceedings
because we were all living the movie while we were filming it!
What can you tell us about
critical or audience reception of your movie so far?
So far the critical
reception has been really encouraging.
Things that we all worked really hard on, like the aesthetic, the
music and the pacing are all frequently being praised which is really
gratifying. I think fans of
horror appreciate the film and thatís huge for me because Iím such a
fan of the genre myself. At
the end of the day, I wanted to make the kind of horror/thriller I would
like to see, so when I see audience members really getting into it, itís
go back to the beginnings of your career - what got you into filmmaking to
begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?
Like I mentioned
earlier, I grew up making movies with Jamie Temple and we actually made
our first film together for a school project in grade 7.
Ever since then, I was hooked!
Every opportunity I got, I would make a movie for school and when I
finally graduated it was a no-brainer to go to university and study film.
I went to Carleton University and got a BA Honors in Film Studies.
The program was purely based in theory and history, so I had to get
my technical knowledge outside of school, either making my own films or
working on the films of others. I
was an avid member of the film society at my university which allowed me
to connect with other people who wanted to make films.
It was a great collective environment with everyone working on each
otherís films and getting together to watch them.
It was a huge developmental period for me.
After graduating I moved to Vancouver, BC and started working in
the legitimate film industry as a production assistant on Hollywood
feature films and TV shows. I
did that for a few years and soaked up a lot of information, but towards
the end of it I got tired of being at the bottom and decided to just make
my own movie. I actually wrote
and storyboarded all of From
Beneath while I was working on the TV show Smallville.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to From
Well, like I said, I
got a lot of on set experience working as a production assistant.
But all the films I made over the years in school really gave me
the experience I needed to pull off making my first feature.
Working on Smallville showed me the importance of lighting to lend drama and
believability to a scene. The
last short I made before From
Beneath, which I shot on 16mm film, taught me the importance of lenses
which I further explored by picking up photography as a hobby.
For me, lenses and lighting are so important for infusing mood into
a scene. Also sound, sound is
the Achilles heel of independent film.
It often gets overlooked by filmmakers and itís so important.
Iíve been burned by bad sound on a number of short films Iíve
made in the past, so it was important that the sound be really good in From
Beneath. My producer Ashe
Morrison was trained in radio and sound engineering and she really went to
great lengths to make the sound as good as possible in From
Directors who inspire you?
Steven Spielberg is a
huge inspiration. A rather
conventional choice, I know, but his ability to make films that speak to
such mass audiences really inspires me.
He has an uncanny ability for tapping into the primal, underlying
traits that unite most people and as far as Iím concerned, thatís one
of the greatest assets a filmmaker can have.
Robert Rodriguez is also a big inspiration for me.
I love the way he challenges himself to tackle different genres and
work with limited resources. I
also identify with his hands-on approach to every aspect of production.
I enjoy every aspect of production and I try to do as much as
humanly possible on each film. I
feel like Robert Rodriguez and I are kindred spirits in that way.
Ridley Scott is a huge inspiration as well.
He has such a distinct and beautiful approach to film aesthetics.
The way he uses genre film as an excuse to create beautiful,
expressionistic images is very inspiring.
The visuals in Blade Runner
and Alien are intoxicating.
The Thing (1982)
4. The Evil Dead
Raiders of the Lost Ark
6. There Will
7. No Country for Old Men
The Wild Bunch
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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The links below
will take you
Thereís too many
to name, but those are the ones Iím feeling right now.
... and of course, films you really
Hmmm, thatís a hard
one. I usually try to give
movies the benefit of the doubt, but some that I absolutely couldnít
stand were Saw 2 and all the
sequels thereafter. Textbook
examples of how overwrought visual aesthetics and frenetic editing can
completely destroy a movie. Most
recently, Iíd say Transformers 2,
that was the closest Iíve ever come to walking out of a movie. Shark Night was super
disappointing, especially because of how much I love Jaws.
Every time the suspense started to ramp up, the filmmakers would do
something ham-handed and ridiculous and completely ruin the moment.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
I think Iíve rambled on for far too long, haha.
Thanks for the interview!