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An Interview with Jen & Sylvia Soska, Creators, Directors and Stars of Dead Hooker in a Trunk

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2010

Jen Soska on (re)Search my Trash

Sylvia Soska on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie is called Dead Hooker in a Trunk. In a few words, what is it about?

 

Jen & Sylvia Soska

Sylvia: Dead Hooker in a Trunk is a dark comedy, classic grindhouse throw-back film that follows four character from different walks of life - Junkie (Rikki Gagne), Goody Two-Shoes (CJ Wallis), Geek (Jen Soska), and Badass (me) - as they discover a dead hooker in their trunk and, for various reasons, can't really just go to the police to remedy the situation.

Jen: That is exactly it.

 

CJ Wallis, Rkki Gagne, Sylvia and Jen Soska

What exactly were your inspirations for the film's premise and plot?

 

S: Jen and I have been fans of horror and movies since we were little girls. Rodriguez and Tarantino's Grindhouse was out at the time and we absolutely loved it. Jen came up with the idea for a fake trailer entitled Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and then we thought up the rest. We wanted to make something that was insane and fun to watch that also had some of the elements from movies that we have loved our whole lives.

The fake trailer was such a success when we showed it that people started asking about the feature. We expanded on what we had and added a little more insanity and the film was born.

 


J: We were very inspired by Rodriguez's El Mariachi and his book Rebel Without a Crew. It tells the story of what he went through making his first feature, the ups and downs. The struggles. It's incredibly inspiring. I highly recommend everyone read it. And, additionally, keep their own account aka diary/journal during their filming experiences.

 

The film's title, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, is pretty much as simple and in-your-face as it is ingenious and addictive. Who came up with it and why?

 

S: Jen did. She is a wise woman. We knew going into it that we needed something that caught people's attention from the get-go, then we had to have a film that would surprise people and keep their attention. That said, the title itself has turned off a lot of people too. They hear the name and either they smile and get excited or they get a really disgusted, upset look. It's interesting.

 

J: Being totally unknown filmmakers, we knew we needed to have something that would be unforgettable. Dead Hooker In A Trunk sticks in your mind, for better or worse, whether you love it instantly or hate it. But, you don't forget it.

 

You have not only written but also directed the film together. Have you clashed a lot on set?

 

S: I clash with Jen the way best friends who have spent their entire lives together do. We were pretty good, but when we had to talk things out, we would go for a little walk away from set to discuss our thoughts. We did pretty good - probably because we had such busy, long days - there wasn't any extra time for spats.

 

J: Like all killers, we prefer to have no witnesses, ha ha. If we disagree or want to have a little talk, we go for a walk or talk about it later. Everyone has disagreements and if they tell you otherwise, they're lying. It's easy to get passionate about a project you care so much about. Sylvia's actually wonderful to work with. We think in a very similar way. We can usually reach an agreement easily. Thankfully.

 

How would you describe your directorial style?

 

S: With Jen, we do a tag team thing. We each pick certain scenes that each of us will be the main director for, but we still plan out everything with the other to make sure we will both be happy with how things turn out. Jen is really good with people, so she does a lot of the scheduling and figuring out things with the actors. After I write a script, I have the whole thing - how it should look and how it should play - in my head, so I do a bunch of running around and talking to the crew to get things perfect.

 

J: Definitely. We're pretty lucky that there are two of us. If we're needed in two places at once, and I'm sure fellow directors know what I'm talking about, we can confidently deal with two situations at once. It's very liberating. I always know things will be fine if I leave to something to Sylv. And vice versa.
We're very hands on in our style. We love to be involved in absolutely every aspect of filmmaking. That is, in part, one of the reasons we did so many jobs on this film. We wanted to be part of it all and it was a great opportunity to showcase everything we can do. It's highly unlikely we'll ever get that chance again. You have a lot of freedom with your first project and you really ought to take advantage of that.

 

Since you are identical twins and I have no real life experience whatsoever but seen way too many bad movies, I just have to ask this: Which one of you is the evil twin?

 

S: Jen is. I bought her a tank top proudly sporting I'm the Evil Twin. She claims the shirt is misdirection on my part, but isn't that exactly what an evil twin would say?
 

J: Ha ha, Sylv's totally the evil one. She could rival the Punisher. She just seems much sweeter on the outside and I seem a bit meaner because I got one of those bitch faces. If I'm not putting in an effort to smile or look happy, I look pissed off. I really can't help it.

 

CJ Wallis doesn't only play one of the leads and has I don't know how many other behind-the-scenes functions on the film, you have also collaborated with him quite frequently in the past. What can you tell us about him?

 

CJ Wallis

S: CJ Wallis is stupidly, overly talented. He's a great actor, he directs, shoots, soundtracks, and cuts amazingly well. Our original Goody Two-Shoes dropped out two days before our first shooting day and, due to the material and us paying for the film out of our pockets, no one else could be found. I saw him do a cameo in one of his shorts and it was exactly what I wanted Goody to be. I asked him to be in the film and he said yes. That night we wrote the script with Goody as a guy and I couldn't imagine the film in any other way.

The three of us became really close working together on the film. His and my friendship became romantic a few months in, we decided that we shouldn't do anything about it until filming was finished, but it turned out to be the real thing. We've been together ever since. CJ, Jen, and I all live together. We understand each other as we are all extremely passionate about film. We have this joke that Jen and I make the crotch-driven guy movies and CJ makes the artful tearing-invoking chick flicks. We do collaborate a lot and I think the three of us make a unique mix with our individual interests.

 

J: We're very lucky to have met CJ. Not only is he a great friend, he is an amazingly talented film maker and composer. His taste and style are polar opposites to ours. Which is a very good thing. He's introduced us to music and films that we probably would have never sought out ourselves. As well, we've introduced him to the films we love. He hadn't seen many horror movies until we came along. Now, he's pretty much see 'em all. It's a great blend. It's arthouse meets grindhouse.

 

Rikki Gagne

Your film also features actress and stunt woman Rikki Gagne in a lead role. A few words about her?

 

S: Rikki is amazing. She was our third Junkie. Our first left town unexpectedly, our second wasn't available for all the shooting dates. We had met her on set a few times and our Hooker, Tasha Moth, had really good things to say about her. We hired her and in the first scene we shot, she argues with Badass then leaves to pick up drugs. She was so good - her acting is so effortless and her movement is captivating. She becomes a character with every aspect of her being. She is also one of the sweetest, most fun, and hardworking ladies I have had the opportunity to work with. You don't often meet a performer that is not only an exception actress and stunt woman, but Rikki is that rare mix.
 

J: Rikki is not only an extremely talented performer, but she's a great friend and wonderful person. She's just so full of life and she's the kind of person you love spending time with.

 

What can you tell us about yourselves as actresses? And does it make things easier or harder to be both in front of and behind the camera?

 

S: I think it helps anyone who wants to direct to have acting experience. It helps you understand the process better. The more jobs you know how to do on set, the more useful you can be. We started acting when we were little girls - the whole Olsen twin thing was a big push to get work. I have enjoyed creating characters and acting as one of those characters is a thrill. On Hooker, it was a lot of work setting up the scene, getting everything scheduled, buying props and costumes, going over the scene with the crew, deciding on shots, all the while in your makeup and costume about to get in the scene. I truly love acting, but I am going to step away from it for the time being. I have a lot of stories to tell, but unfortunately not all of them are about the misadventures of identical twins.

 

J: I'd say it makes things easier. It gives you better perspective. Sometimes actors can be too much in their own heads, but when you do so many other things, especially direct, you see the bigger picture. You have so many things on your mind that you don't have time to over think anything and your choices are more natural.

 

Dead Hooker in a Trunk also features a performance by Robert Rodriguez-regular Carlos Gallardo. How did you get him involved in your project, and what was the collaboration like?

 

S: I love Carlos - he is such an identity in the indie scene and one of the nicest guys in the world. We had Rodriguez's book - Rebel Without A Crew - about creating his first film, El Mariachi, indie style on set with us at all times. It was a great resource for the things you may have to deal with while making your own flick and it was a big inspiration in creating Hooker. A filmmaking friend of ours, Jeff O'Brien, knew about our crazy little indie and was friends with Carlos, so he told him about us and we got to talking. Carlos was so supportive of what we were doing. There is a cameo part as God in the film and we asked Carlos if he would be interested. He said yes and did it out of the goodness of his heart. He gave us so much advice. Working with someone whose movies you have watched a million times - I mean, he is the Mariachi - and getting to have them work with you on your own project is more than any first time film maker could ever ask for. He is a true professional and downright nice guy.  

 

J: It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. To read about Carlos and Robert making El Mariachi and then getting to sit down and chat about it? Priceless. It was just so surreal and Carlos is so very sweet. Some people may get detached and forget how hard it is for indie filmmakers out there, but he's not that way at all. He's supportive and everything you'd hope he'd be.

 

Tasha Moth

A few words about the rest of your cast and crew?

 

S: We had the hardest working cast and crew ever. There was little to no money to draw people in and they still came in and worked their asses off. Almost everyone who was cast was also crew in some way. Everyone did everything to make the film work. Our Hooker - the actress and stuntwoman - Tasha Moth was incredible. Once you see her fight scene in the film, you'll understand. She is tough as they come. Our Cowboy Pimp - John Tench - is probably the classiest and most talented guys around - I will love him and his work. We had so many talented people - James Bell (Weirdo), Michael Schaldamose (Helpful Man), David Barkes (Motel Manager and FX), Nicholas Baric (Cop#1), Hugo Steele (Cop#2), Eric Alexander Steel (Random Guy), Maja Stace-Smith (Badass double for Cowboy fight), Denton E. Winn (1979 Dad), Dahlia Moth (1979 Badass and Geek), and so many more. Our stunt team was insane, our pyro team was insane, our stunt horse (Libero) was also insane.
 

J: I really have to thank our fellow producers, Loyd Bateman, Mary Ann Vangraven, Don Charge, and our parents, Agnes and Marius Soska. Loyd brought his insane stunt skills and fellow performers to the project. Mary Ann was not only our key make up artist, but she was there every single day and there till the bitter sweet end. Our parents have been incredible. You read about people thanking their parents for all their support and when I was little watching the Oscars I always wondered why people would go on and on about their parents. I thought, "they're your parents, of course they support you." Our parents have gone above and beyond to support us. They never gave us the "film-is-great-but-maybe-think-about-getting-a-real-job" speech. We're very grateful.

 

Incura

For your film's soundtrack, you have gathered quite a few indie bands - who's on the soundtrack and why?

 

S: We wanted to keep the film as indie as possible and are lucky that there is so much talent locally here. We had Fake Shark-Real Zombie!, Incura, The Awkward Stage, The Stalls, Ione Sky, The Titan Go-Kings (a girl punk band from Japan), The Belle Game, and original music from CJ Wallis and from Adam Nanji. They have great music and it was nice to include it in the film to help broaden their audiences.

 

J: As an independent project ourselves, it was important to us to have that independent spirit reflected in the music. We sought out the very best the Vancouver indie music scene has to offer.

 

Dead Hooker in a Trunk was shot in Vancouver, Canada. Why, and what can you tell us about the (independent) movie scene in that neck of the woods?

 

S: There is more talent here than there is work and I think it makes it a hot spot for independent film making. Every type of location is here from city scapes to rainforests to desert which makes for convenient shooting. I don't know if you have ever had the chance to come to our neck of the woods, but it's beautiful here and the people are really friendly and hard working. A filmmaker's paradise.
 

J: Vancouver is filmed in a lot, but rarely is it ever filmed AS Vancouver. We love our city and wanted to showcase how great and beautiful it is here. Vancouver is to us as I suppose Maine is to Stephen King.

 

Your and your film's website, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, whatever else?

 

S: We have pretty much everything on our site http://www.twistedtwinsproductions.net - from movies, to a store, to a blog that says what we're up to next. We encourage people who are interested in the film to contact us through the site and we'll try to get Hooker to a festival or screening near them.
 

J: We're also on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/twisted_twins

 

Dead Hooker in the Trunk is your debut feature as directors. What can you tell us about your film expeciences, both in front of and behind the camera, prior to this?

 

S: As an actor, you have very little control over the final project or what your involvement in the film will be. I was looking over my resume and everything was either sexy twin this or sexy clone that and that's fine and flattering, but it wasn't what I was passionate about doing. Now that I am writing and directing with Jen, I feel that I am making the films that I want to see and want to be involved in. There's more creative control over what is going out, actually it's almost like absolute creative control, and that makes me very proud of the product. That said, I can work for the rest of my life in this field and still be learning.

 

J: It was primarily just hot chick or hot twins roles. Which are good and fine, but we strive for a little more than that. I always think that actors spend so much time trying to book roles they don't even really want to play. The only real way to be able to play the roles or tell the stories you want to is by making them yourself. It's an amazing feeling. I just love it.

 

What made you go into directing in the first place, and did you recieve and formal training in filmmaking?

 

S: We wanted to make something cool that we would enjoy watching. Being identical twins, we found we were just getting the same roles offered to us over and over again. We went to film school to turn our martial arts training into skills that could be utilized in the stunt world. The stunt program was amazing and the rest was so disorganized that it was a severe waste of time and money. The school pulled our funding for our final project and told us to just merge with another group. That simply wouldn't do. Jen came up with the idea for a fake trailer called Dead Hooker in a Trunk and we were off to hire a cast and crew and get everything organized. The school had a list of everything too inappropriate for projects, so we threw it all in there and a couple they forgot to mention for good measure. The reaction was half the audience walking out and the other half cheering so loud that you could barely hear the lovely offensive shit we put in it. And so, Dead Hooker in a Trunk was born and our directing career began.

 

J: Ha ha, what she said.

 

Any future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

S: We have a couple that might start any time now. We're shooting a teaser trailer for one, American Mary, that we'll be showing at our Vancouver screening on August 13th, then posting online everywhere. The teaser will be a nice juicy hint of the unique horror of the new film. We also have one called Bob that we pitched a couple weeks ago and are just waiting to hear back from the production company about. It's a coming of age, (extremely) dark comedy about two friends. There is something very different about their relationship, but we can't say too much til we get the go-ahead.

 

J: We have so many projects we want to do. We have a film called The Man Who Kicked Ass which I'm very excited about. It's a re-imagining of Westerns as you know them with a new twist.
 

Directors who have influenced you?

 

S: Robert Rodriguez for sure. He's my hero. I love the work from Quentin Tarantino, Mary Harron, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Eli Roth, Takeshi Miike, and John Carpenter. I'm such a horror nerd.

J: Definitely Rodriguez. He's so inspiring. I can't wait to meet him. All the ones Sylvie said, but I also love Joss Whedon. A lot.

 

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Your favourite films?

 

S: American Psycho is my favorite. Jen and I always quote it at the most inappropriate of times. I also really dig The Classic, Suicide Club, Martyrs, the Mariachi-trilogy, Edward Scissorhands, and The People Versus Larry Flynt.

 

J: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, American Psycho, Batman Returns, Twins, Suicide Club, and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

 

And of course, films you have really deplored?

 

S: Oh God. I hate chick flicks. They insult vaginas everywhere. Crossroads was a pile of shit - we wanted to make Hooker the anti-Crossroads girl-roadtrip movie. Most romantic comedies where sad women try to find a man to 'complete' them irritate me. Sex and the City which promotes women acting selfishly and obsessing with men is probably the piece of work that I deplore the most. I think it has soured an entire generation of intelligent women who are now bimbo-clones. 

 

J: Bitch Slap. It was total crap farm. And I fucking hated Catwoman. She's been a long time hero(ine) of mine and it was terrible to see her portrayed so pathetically. I actually have a killer re-vitalization script for her.

 

Anything else you are dying to tell us and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

S: You have been very thorough! I guess the only thing left to say is that if you like this film, pass the word along and tell your friends. If you want to see this film, but haven't, send us a message through our site and we'll do our best to bring the Hooker to a theater or film festival near you.

 

J: We're Tauruses.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

S: Thank you for having us!

 

J: Yes, thank you so much!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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