Your new movie Fondue
- in a few words, what is it about?
is the story of a mysterious duo who partake in a disturbing
Halloween tradition. If I get any more specific than that, I think I'll
risk giving too much away!
plays with Halloween imagery quite a bit - so what does Halloween (the
day, not the movie) mean to you?
I'm not into gruesome
depictions of the holiday, I love the classic "spook show"
atmosphere of Halloween; witches, ghosts, jack o'lanterns, skeletons, etc.
Perhaps even more so now than when I was actually at the age for such
things, I love the old-fashioned take on the holiday. My ideal Halloween
is an evening of spooky stories in some derelict countryside cemetery, or
curled up late in front of a crappy TV watching Monsters Crash The Pajama
Party. Fondue was my fusion of childish Halloween imagery and surreal
horror, two of my favourite things. And punk rock, there's a little punk
rock in there as well!
There are two things
about Fondue that
simply can't escape anyone's attention: Everybody (but the victim) is
wearing Halloween-masks almost throughout the film, and not a single word
is uttered - was all this intended from the get-go, or did this just
develop during shooting the movie?
The masks were intended
to hide the characters' facial expressions from the start, seeing as it
would likely be safest for the film's characters to remain anonymous (with
the exception of the two leads, of course, since it's hinted that they
have a romantic relationship). As far as the lack of dialogue goes, one of
the main reasons for this was so I could submit to foreign festivals
without worrying about subtitles or dubbing. In that respect, it was more
a practical decision than an artistic one, but as the story developed it
became pretty clear that it could be told solely with visuals.
You now of course have to talk about your cast for a bit, and was it at all hard to find
actors to fill their roles given they had to be masked all throughout and
didn't have any lines?
story about that, actually! The two leads of the film, Raven Cousens and
Youp Zondag, were cast in another film I was working on at the time called
TRASH: Curse of the Masquerade Maniacs. We had started shooting the film
over the summer and wanted to try and finish one specific scene before we
got too deep into autumn. However, I had this idea for a short and thought
the two of them would be perfect for those lead roles as well. As the
shooting day approached and I heard reports of dismal weather, I realized
that if it were cloudy we'd have to delay shooting TRASH,
since we'd lose continuity with our previously shot footage. So when the
day arrived and we were met with rain, we started on Fondue. I
don't think I even told them we were going to be shooting another film
until the day-of!
rest of the cast were just other friends of mine willing to come out for a
couple days. Rebecca McAulay, if I remember correctly, was only around for
a couple days, one of which was the coldest we experienced on-set. Of
course, this was the day she had to have her hands soaked with
*spoilers!*, which certainly didn't make things easy. Credited as
"The Chef", she was a trooper and kept a positive attitude when
I was pulling my hair out, which greatly eased the tension. Mickey Conde,
although only involved for a single day, probably had the most difficult
role, as "The Meat". Again, I can't elaborate without giving
away too much, but I'll just say that the guy was absolutely freezing, and
was in great discomfort for an extended period of time. Emma McDonald,
credited as "The Other", was there for every day of shooting
outside of her onscreen role, helping lug gear around, hold lights, etc,
and was an indispensable asset to the production. I'll take this
opportunity to publicly thank all the cast members for their dedication
and amazing work. It wasn't easy, but you all pulled it off in spades!
What were your
inspirations when writing Fondue,
and what can you tell us about the writing process as such?
was no writing process, really! It wasn't necessary since I had all the
scenes mapped out in my head, verbally explained it to the cast, and there
was no dialogue! My inspirations for the film were a number of
experimental pieces that I'd grown very fond of, specifically Shozin
Fukui's 964 Pinocchio and Michael Todd Schneider's
Our Devil's Night.
Schneider's film inspired me as far as a lot of the imagery goes, taking
childish Halloween imagery and placing it in a much darker universe. His
colour correction techniques also influenced me to play more freely with
the look of the film, and I took much more time with this than I have on
slow-burn pacing of the film was greatly inspired by 964 Pinocchio, and
the film also influenced what I wanted for portions of the soundtrack. The
film's composers Andrew Laughton and Bensen Carter did an amazing job,
especially considering this was their first time producing music of this
type. Both are songwriters, and it was challenging for them to create
pieces more akin to atmospheric noise than actual songs, but they got what
I was looking for dead-on. Their work is all the more impressive
considering the majority of the soundtrack was written and recorded in a
single 12-hour session, the three of us crammed into their studio the
entire time. I can't thank those two enough for contributing their talents
and effort to the project!
and as long as I'm mentioning soundtrack, I want to extend a special
thanks to the band Mountain Cult for letting me use their track Dog
Specimen over the end credits. Their music served as a temporary
soundtrack throughout the editing stage, and embodies the vibe I wanted
for the film in musical form. Check them out!
would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?
I touched on earlier, I wanted to keep the film at a rather slow pace and
lull the viewer in with intriguing imagery, and as a result, create a
surreal, dreamlike atmosphere. The film's lack of dialogue and bizarre
concept almost makes it a tangible fever dream, or at least that's what I
hope I achieved.
Fondue gets pretty
bloody towards the end - was there ever a line you refused to cross
concerning gore and violence?
I had intended for the film to adopt a completely different tone at the
climax and turn into a bloodbath, but as we worked through the scenes
leading up to that point, I realized this approach wouldn't work. To
compare the film to a far superior production, I decided that the Texas
Chainsaw Massacre technique of "less is more" would be more
effective, so as not to take the audience out of the film by bombarding
them with cheap gore. However, without giving too much away, I will say it
was necessary to to use one specific prop (which we may reshoot with
something more lifelike), but if I could have gotten around showing even
that much, I would have. I like splatter films to a certain extent, but
gore would have served no purpose in Fondue.
What can you tell us
about your locations and about the shoot as such?
far as locations go, we were extremely lucky and found an abandoned house
that was perfect for the film. I knew about the place and had initially
intended just to grab one exterior shot of the building, then shoot any
interiors in a dingy basement somewhere else. But when we knocked on the
door to ask permission to film out front, we realized the place was empty
and unlocked. We wound up coming back several times and shot all the
interiors in that same house, and we found some creepy stuff. The folks
who owned the place left in a hurry, abandoning photo albums and kids'
toys, leaving the building to rot away. It was a huge property too, and
we'll hopefully be going back soon to shoot more before it's demolished.
Still can't believe we lucked into that!
can you tell us about audience and critical reception of Fondue
So far, it's been shocking! I got in touch with one
reviewer named Gruesome Hertzogg, and asked if he could give the film a
watch and provide a 1-2 sentence quote for the short's trailer. To my
surprise, he liked the film so much that he did an entire review on his
podcast, awarding the film a completely unexpected 9.5 out of 10! From
there he helped me out enormously and promoted it throughout the review
community, which is how I got in touch with you! So far, the reception has
been mind boggling, and it's extremely exciting to see that people
"get" the film. Fondue
was my first time creating something more
unconventional and surreal, so it's very satisfying to see that it
"works", since I had no idea how it would turn out! It's all the
more surprising considering it was initially intended to be a quickie 5
minute short to stick online for Halloween! This is nuts!
Let's go back to your beginnings: What got you
into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
been making films since the 2nd grade, specifically after I first saw The
Nightmare Before Christmas. For some reason, the teachers at my elementary
school thought it would be a great idea to show it to my class prior to
Halloween, and it scared the living hell out of me. It got so bad that my
father taught me the process of stop-motion animation as a form of therapy
to show I had nothing to be afraid of. The lesson piqued my interest in
film making, which I continued until I began shooting live action comedy
skits in the 7th grade, which then evolved into horror films. I've never
had any formal training outside of a high-school film course, but I
learned most of the ropes through a project I began when I was 13.
group of friends and I had started watching zombie flicks over the summer,
and after seeing some of the lacklustre productions being put to DVD, our
naive minds conjured up the idea of shooting a feature-length zombie film
with the intent of distribution. The project wound up taking 3 years to
complete (2 years longer than anticipated), and while the final film came
out terribly, it served as a film making crash-course. I directed, filmed,
edited, wrote (kind of), scored, created makeup effects, and essentially
everything else behind the scenes myself. And while I certainly still had
a lot to learn (and still do!), I learned all the basics through that
production. And let me tell you, it was hell!
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Fondue?
completing that feature zombie film, I was in high school and signed up
for the elective film course. Through this, I produced 4 short films which
furthered my hands-on experience and knowledge of film terms. In 2011 I
released 2 short films. One of these was a sequel to a previous film, Case
Study 2: Hide and Seek, and another called TRASH. Both were very
successful on the festival and convention circuit, screening multiple
times across North America and sold very well, for what they were. TRASH
became pretty popular on the collector's circuit, since I'd been selling
copies on VHS to add to the schlocky vibe. It was even included on a
compilation DVD released in the UK though Dead Good Films Like, mixed in
with a slew of other no-budget horror productions. After TRASH I did
another short called Toolbox Charlie, and then began tinkering on my
work-in-progress TRASH: Curse of the Masquerade Maniacs, in addition to
several projects helmed by friends that I contributed soundtrack and
cinematography to. And from there, I started Fondue!
future projects you'd like to talk about?
I'm currently in
the process of compiling my favourite shorts into anthology film format,
which is slated for 3rd party distribution in March (though I can't say
much about this!). The film is currently titled Candy Corn, and I'm also
re-packaging these same shorts into TV show format for the local cable
station. I've got plans for a handful of other horror films, in addition
to finishing up Masquerade Maniacs, but am hoping to start work on both a
documentary and a teen comedy before the end of the year. Why not?
filmmaker, you seem to be firmly rooted in the horror genre - a genre at
all dear to you, and why?
Horror encapsulates so many other
types of work, and if you look hard enough, you'll always find something
new, fresh and exciting. Personally, I'm not interested in conventional
horror fare. I've seen Dawn of the
Dead, Friday the
13th, Nightmare on Elm
Street, but I'm not all that crazy about any of them. The horror films I
hold dear to my heart are the ones made by weekend warriors with an
original vision, and as someone in a similar position, that's totally
relatable. I love indie horror because I understand the mindset behind it,
and it's exciting to see amazing art produced for pennies. That being
said, I can't get behind low-budget zombie or slasher fare unless they're
really doing something different, be it structurally or visually. The
cliches have been done to death, something that even I'll admit to taking
part in, but it's getting to a point where I simply can't get myself
excited for horror fare unless it's really doing something different. I
love the genre, but it's in desperate need of a face-lift. And, while it's
getting there, there's still way more so-bad-it's-good/incompetent
productions coming out than I can stomach. Not that I'm in any position to
critique, mind you!
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
I've never really thought about
this, but I think determined is a good adjective. My general rule of thumb
is if I finish the first 3-5 minutes of a film, I follow through and
complete the project. I think auteur may apply to a certain extent, though
I'm hesitant to say that since it sounds pretentious! I like to carry out
every aspect of production myself, and on Fondue
I went so far as to paint
and draw the end credits by hand. On TRASH, the only other people involved
were my friends Mickey Conde, who played a small role, and my friend
Struan Sutherland who created the retro Candle Flame Films logo, also used
in Fondue. Outside of that, I acted (poorly, mind you), edited, directed,
shot, wrote, and scored the film, so complete creative control is very
important to me. That being said, it's tons of fun to get people involved
who have similar visions!
Filmmakers who inspire you?
man, I'll try and keep this brief! Chris LaMartina [Chris
LaMartina interview - click here], Jason Willis, Shozin
Fukui, Michael Todd Schnieder, Jason Eisener, Astron-6, Ted V Mikels,
Frank Henenlotter and many more. But all of these people made an impact on
me because of the DIY aesthetic and attitude towards their work. All the
films these guys produce have a kind of grungy, punk-rock vibe; shooting on
the fly without permission, breaking laws, and essentially doing whatever
it takes to get their flicks shot and in the can. Not that I condone
illegal activity mind you, but you've got to do what you've got to do to
make your art happen, even if that means living on the street with a sock
full of change. I think the punk rock approach to film making applies now
more than ever, since picking up a camera and shooting a film is just as
simple now as learning 3 chords and starting a band, and the comparison
continues through every aspect of production, from lensing to
distribution. It doesn't have to be polished, it has to be catchy,
exciting, and if possible, do something that sets it apart from the crowd.
Okay, I'll actually keep this brief since
the last response turned into a bit of a tangent! 964 Pinocchio and
Devil's Night of course, Rubber's Lover, Basket
Tales From the Crypt and
The Vault of Horror (the
anthologies), Father's Day,
Hobo With A Shotgun, the short films Backyard Barbecue and Television
Show, Jan Svankmajer's Alice and all his shorts for that matter… okay,
I'll stop there!
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I've suppressed many of these and not too much
comes to mind, but there's a HORRIBLE slasher film called Mutant Man that
actually makes me sick when I think of it… like, I'm actually starting
to feel sad now…
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
it still needs work and apparently there's two different versions of it
live (???), my site is www.candleflamefilms.com. For frequent updates, go
to facebook.com/candleflamefilms, and if you want to purchase my horror
anthology 'zine The Keep, among other products coming down the pipeline,
go to candleflamemedia.bigcartel.com. Or you could just email me at
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
anyone out there knows of genre festivals currently accepting submissions,
please contact me! Oh, and I also write for the website FilmArmy.ca and
have some fun stuff coming up, including interviews with some of the filmmakers I mentioned earlier. So drop by the site and check it out!
for the interview!
Thanks for the interest! Seriously, this is crazy exciting!