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IN FOCUS: Paget Brewster On Her Longevity, Artistic Evolution & ’The Witch Files!

IN FOCUS: Paget Brewster On Her Longevity, Artistic Evolution & ’The Witch Files!

The unstoppable Paget Brewster.

Paget Brewster has made a career of lighting up the screen with memorable performances in some of the most finely crafted projects in film and television. Known throughout the industry as a seasoned veteran that can elevate any material, Brewster is most recognizable in her role as Special Agent Emily Prentiss of the long-running CBS crime drama, ‘Criminal Minds.’ Her resume includes a series of regular television credits such as ‘Andy Richter Controls the Universe,’ ‘Huff,’ ‘Another Period,’ ‘Community,’ ‘Grandfathered’ and many more. Not to be overlooked are Brewster’s film credits which include ‘Welcome to Happiness,’ ‘My Big Fat Independent Movie,’ ‘The Specials,’ ‘The Big Bad Swim,’ ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,’ ‘Desperate But Not Serious,’ and ‘Man of the House.’ In recent years, she has continued to challenge both herself and her audience with deeply complicated characters as she continues to expand her already well developed craft.

Her latest project, Kyle Rankin’s ‘The Witch Files,’ is no exception to that aforementioned rule. The film centers around an unlikely gathering of teenage girls who soon discover one of their group may possess supernatural powers. Intrigued, they follow her into the local woods, where they harness the ambient energy of witches who were persecuted there hundreds of years ago. Realizing they now have the ability to make every desire a reality, the girls form a coven and soon have the entire school under their control. Their newfound power, however, comes at a deadly cost, and before long they find themselves under attack from one of their own … who isn’t about to give up the good life without a fight. ‘The Witch Files’ is told with a mixture of deft humor and teenage drama that will appeal to fans of Charmed, The Craft, and Mean Girls. The witchy plot certainly proves we should all be careful of what we wish for. The witty new thriller arrives on digital platforms and DVD on October 9, 2018.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently connected with Paget Brewster for a spirited interview in which they discuss her career, creative evolution, and the making of ‘The Witch Files.’

How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?

Wow! You know, I was always in plays, sang in glee club, formed a band, failed out of Parsons School of Design, so I really had to make a run at it! I started in San Francisco doing this talk show. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that agents were different and represented different types of people. I was bartending and an agent hung out at my bar. I finally convinced him to represent me but he represented correspondents and anchor people, so I ended up going on auditions to get a talk show and ended up doing 55 episodes. Then I moved to Los Angeles and got an acting agent and was just lucky, really!

Was there anyone behind the scenes giving you the extra push when you needed it?

My parents were so afraid of me coming to act that they kept trying to talk me out of it, which was pretty inspirational, just in terms of trying to prove them wrong! [laughs] You know how it is when your 18. You’re like, “I know what I’m doing!” Of course, I didn’t but they are really proud now. Honestly, I’ve just been really lucky. I’ve taken a lot of classes and wanted to learn and watch people in different departments do great work. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to do that!

When do you feel you really came into your own as an actress? Was there a breakout moment for you?

I did six episodes of “Friends” and that was a pretty incredible break for me. That was probably the most exciting thing and the one that made me say, “Okay, I can do this for a living.”

Where do you find yourself looking for creative inspiration these days?

Good writing! That’s really it. Everything has to start with the writing. It’s really appreciating someone’s voice and feeling like, “Oh, that’s exciting! I would like to act that part.” Personally, I have no interest in directing or producing and I’m not a really good writer. I’ve tried but it just doesn’t go anywhere. So, the one thing I am good at, and I’m not even great at it, is acting! The one thing I know as an actor is that it has to be in the writing or you can’t be good. I’m lucky to have been on a network show for a long time and I’ve been able to save money so that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, knock on wood. This latest movie, ‘The Witch Files,’ is a great example. It was a little independent movie. At a certain age and with a certain amount of money in savings, you think, “Ugh, I don’t want to do a little indie film and change in a public bathroom!” Actors get spoiled if you do well for awhile! [laughs] I loved it! I thought it was such a great idea. I thought what Kyle [Rankin] wrote was really unusual, clever and thoughtful. I wanted to do it! It was also shooting in Maine, which is where Kyle is from. My mom and dad also live in Maine, so I was able to see them and eat steamer clams everyday and be in Portland! Maine is just so beautiful, but it really all came down to the script! It was me playing a cop, which is something you don’t always want to do if you have done it before, but I did in this because I thought it was such a great idea.

How did ‘The Witch Files’ first come your way?

I think it came through my manager. I ‘m pretty sure he sent it to me. I’m also pretty sure that the part I played was originally written for Ray Wise, who I love. It was written as this grizzled older guy. I know for a fact that Ray had been signed on to shoot something else at the time. Kyle had worked with Ray before but the timing just didn’t work out. When Ray wasn’t available and they were moving forward into production and start shooting, they were like, “Oh, my God! We have to get somebody to play a cop! It can’t be Ray because he’s busy!” So, they came to me! I think my agent might have had a grizzled male detective actor that she represented but then they found out, “Oh, she also has Padget. She plays a cop on CBS! Let’s ask her.” Honestly, I think that’s how it happened! [laughs]

What do you feel you brought to the role to this character that wasn’t on the written page?

Well, hopefully I brought a little femininity! [laughs] As you know, it’s a small part in this movie that is centered on these young ladies who start dabbling in witchcraft. I just wanted to be a part of it. Again, if you get to work as long as I have, you read a lot of scripts. A lot of them are bad! [laughs] Seeing something really good, unique, and original is a rarity. It’s also not super horror, torture porn, tons of gore or swearing. It’s a movie designed for teen and pre-teen kids to watch and question morality and consequences. The larger idea of the film is “Yes, you can get away with something. You can steal or lie but what are the consequences of that.” It has a physical manifestation in this story where the witches start growing old. What Kyle Rankin wrote in the script is “Our idea of witches is crone.” The idea is that their life force is being sapped by doing evil or doing wrong. I thought that was a good idea. I liked that Kyle wanted to write a movie his kids could watch or he could watch with his kids because there isn’t a lot of that! I thought he did it very cleverly!

I think that really carries over. As an adult, the film kept me captivated as well. It really speaks to all age brackets.

Great! I’m really glad to hear that! Frankly, I haven’t seen a final cut! [laughs] I have been trying to buy it but it’s not available yet. It’s out on October 9th!

I think you will be pleasantly surprised! It turned out very good!

I saw the trailer and it looked great! I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. The whole basis of the idea is found footage, kind of like ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ so it’s cell phone footage, surveillance, and traffic cameras. I didn’t know how that would come together but it looks great! I know that they had to spend a year and a half to two years doing some digital effects and a lot of drone footage that had to be edited a certain way. I’m really excited and it looks really great from the preview! Kyle’s gonna kill me that I haven’t seen it yet. If he sent me the movie, I don’t know where it is in my email box!

We are only a few days away from the release. It’ll be perfect for Halloween!

Yeah, it’s perfect and I knew that. That’s what he was talking about the whole time.

Paget Brewster as Emily Prentiss on ‘Criminal Minds.’

What can you tell us about your process for bringing a new character to life?

What I try to do is ask, “How can I service this story? What can I do to create a problem or solve a problem?” In this film, my character is coming after these girls because something is off and, as you know, she has a personal history with this coven. She’s afraid it’s happening again and I think she believes in the general innocence of these kids who are playing with fire and making a bad decision. She has to try and stop them. Whenever I shoot a scene, I’m asking, “What can I give to the person I am in the scene with so that they have something to do or react off of.” That’s what I studied. When I studied both acting and improv, it was always about giving everything to the other person by giving them something to respond to, be befuddled by or interested in. Hopefully, I do that every time but mostly I want to do the right thing for the story.

You played a plethora of different characters through the years. Is there a role you are still anxious to take on?

I really want to play evil ladies! [laughs] Playing the bad guy is the most fun! I think I’m growing into what you would call a patrician or handsome woman, so I’m hoping I’m playing scary, evil or mean women. I can speak very quickly and I have no problem expressing anger even though I don’t generally feel angry in my life. I feel very fortunate, comfortable, happy and loved but I love acting angry, so playing a terrible person is a lot of fun. [laughs] I’m hoping I’ll be able to do more of that moving forward! [laughs] Is that awful to say? [laughs]

Definitely not! [laughs] You’ve accomplished so much in your career and that really speaks to your longevity. How do you feel you’ve most evolved as an actor?

I think the biggest thing is not being fearful. When you are younger, you are so afraid of looking stupid, failing, or even being emotional. I think I was always trying to be cool or to fit in. I think a lot of us who chose to do this job are misfits. It’s also mostly insulting year after year because you’re being told your not who anyone wants, and that’s hard! Who choses that? I think it’s artsy weirdos! When I was lucky enough to do it for a living, I think I did things fearfully sometimes and didn’t jump in all the way. There is definitely vanity and ego at play. It’s stuff like, “I want to look good in this shot!” Letting all of that go and looking foolish, repulsive, angry, needy or desperate is your job as an actor. Your job is to just be human and empathetic in serveth of the story. For me, I think it was feeling confident enough to look terrible and vulnerable, if that makes any sense! [laughs] Then you can do really emotional scenes or upsetting things because you trust falling into it and aren’t trying to look cool, tough or sexy. The older you get you realize, “I just want to be a part of this story telling process. I want to do the best I can to make this thing.” It’s a huge group effort, so there is no one person doing everything. It’s hundreds of people working together to make it happen and it feels really good to be a part of that! It can be a pretty frivolous job. I mean, it sounds silly. Acting is pretty ridiculous but it’s also pretty enjoyable when you meet people and they say, “Thank you for doing what you do. You make me happy. I work this job and then I go home and watch this show that you do or this movie that you did and it makes me happy. I love what you do!” That’s feels great! I’m also a huge fans of shows, movies and books, so I can relate. I think every human being is a fan! Hopefully, everyone is exciting by something or someone or a particular artform! [laughs] Oh my God! Are you still there? Am I rambling? I am rambling! [laughs]

I’m here and don’t worry, it’s great! Actually, it leads to my next question. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?

I don’t know if I’d ever call myself an artist. [laughs] I think we all have to work really had to do anything well or for a really long time. Also, don’t be afraid to take a risk to do the thing you want to do or the thing that makes you happy. If I can take a risk and fail out of art school to make a living doing this, then anyone who is willing to keep plugging away and trying can do whatever it is they love. Obviously, there are varying degrees. I’m not a huge movie star but I didn’t want to be. I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing. I’m lucky and fortunate to be able to do it! Don’t be afraid to work hard, take a risk and take that leap!

That’s a great way to look at things, Paget! Thanks for sharing your time with me today! I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you!

Thank you, Jason! I hope we speak again in the future! Thank you so much for the great questions!

‘The Witch Files’ hits VOD and DVD on October 9th via Dark Sky Films. Follow the continuing adventures of Paget Brewster via social media on Twitter and Instagram.

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UNSTOPPABLE: The Iconic Barbara Crampton On Rededicating Herself Genre Film!

UNSTOPPABLE: The Iconic Barbara Crampton On Rededicating Herself Genre Film!

Barbara Crampton has rededicated herself to the horror genre.

Barbara Crampton’s journey as a Hollywood actress began in the early ’80s, where she cut her teeth on soap operas like “Days of Our Lives” and “Guiding Light.” It wasn’t long before she made the jump to feature films with works like Brian De Palma’s “Body Double” and James Frawley’s teen sex comedy, “Fraternity Vacation.” However, it wasn’t until she stepped into the realm of horror that things truly took off. With iconic appearances in cult horror films such as “Re-Animator”, “From Beyond”, “Castle Freak”, and “Chopping Mall”, she quickly captured the hearts of fans around the globe and was soon elevated to “Scream Queen” status. However, Barbara Crampton is so much more than a pretty face. While that might have been what got her in the door, what keep her in the room was her undying devotion to her career and a skill set that elevates the material of each project she takes on. In recent years, she has continued to challenge both herself and her audience with complicated characters as she continues to grow at her craft. Her latest project, Bradford Baruh’s “Dead Night” is no exception to that rule.

“Dead Night” centers around James and his wife, Casey, as they load up their two teenage kids and head out to a remote cabin in Oregon for a weekend trip. When James heads into the snowy forest in search of firewood, he encounters an enigmatic woman passed out in the snow. Bringing her back to the cabin for help, the family has no way of knowing that the woman’s presence is the catalyst for a series of events that will change their lives forever. Mixing original storytelling with timeless supernatural elements, Bradford Baruh’s directorial debut features a stellar cast of genre favorites including AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton and delivers a wild and blood-soaked weekend away.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down for a quick chat with Barbara Crampton to discuss her amazing journey in the film industry. They discuss her passion for the horror genre, it’s dedicated fans, her process for bringing amazing characters to the screen and what the future may hold for her in the years to come.

You’ve built amazing career for yourself through the years. How did you get involved with the arts early on in life and what went into finding your creative voice?

When I was a young girl, I used to come home after school and watch a program called “The Million Dollar Movie.” It was on every day at 4 o’clock when I was growing up on Long Island. I used to watch a lot of the old 40s movies with Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins, and people like that. I just loved the movies and I loved watching them! At that point, I told my family I wanted to be an actress, which is something I think a lot of young people say at one time or another, but it just sort of stuck with me. I did plays in high school and then I went to college because thought I should out and get a degree. While I was there, I did theater. I studied stagecraft, costume making, lights, directing and writing. I think that foundation gave me something solid to bring to my movie and TV career. That’s how it all began! I moved to New York City and did some plays off-off Broadway before moving to Los Angeles a couple of years later. I just threw myself into the business and veered between soap opera work, which was kinda funny, and horror movies for a long time. I also did a little bit of TV. It wasn’t until the last few years that I feel like I really cemented myself in working in the horror genre.

What lessons did you learn early on as an actor that carried forward and helped guide the course of your career?

You know, I think it’s an ongoing process. I do know if I learned those lessons, it was when I was doing something like “Re-Animator” or “From Beyond,” which are my biggest known titles, along with “You’re Next” or “We Are Still Here,” in recent years. I don’t know if early on in my career I learned anything. Looking back, I can say, “Oh, well that happened…” or “That’s when I made that decision, so maybe this was good.” The thing that I say to people now about my career and their careers, because I see a lot of people complaining on social media about how hard it is to get a movie made or how hard or distressing it is, is keep a positive attitude. I have always kept a positive attitude no matter where I was in my career. At the time that we did “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond,” we got really good reviews but those movies weren’t taken seriously at the time, even by my agent and friends in the business. We got great great reviews from Pauline Kahl and Roger Ebert at the time but my agent was very dismissive of those movies at the time. Over the last 30 to 35 years, they have become cult classics. What I tell people is to approach everything you do as if it’s Shakespeare. If it doesn’t have a following right away, it might gain one in years to come. One of the most famous examples of that is “The Thing.” It wasn’t very well received and didn’t get great reviews when it came out but now it’s a cult classic. You just have to approach everything with as much integrity and positivity as possible. Treat everything as gold. Over time, you’re going to look at your career and say, “I’ve had up moments and I’ve had down moments.” If you really want to be in this business for a really long time, let’s say 30, 40 or 50 years, then you’re going to have highs and lows. I’ve definitely had highs and lows! I was even out of the business for 7 or 8 years and didn’t do anything! I’ve had some pretty good success coming back within the last 5 years. I feel like my career is better now than it was when I was younger! [laughs] Even my old agent is going to say that because he didn’t really like those movies! He’s not may agent today! [laughs] If you want to be in this business, it’s about longevity. You have to stay positive and keep going!

What are you looking for in the projects you take on these days? I guessing that it might differ from your approach as a younger actress.

Yeah. When I was younger, if I was offered a role, I would take it. I didn’t really think about it to much. I was lucky enough to be in some wonderful movies but I was also in some stuff that wasn’t very good. Today, I really take a moment to think, “Is this movie saying something positive about the human condition? Is this this movie saying something positive about people?” I have made a few mistakes recently too. People say I’m horror movies. I don’t want to just be in a horror movie that is going out there to shock people. The narrative is very important to me. It’s the story that it’s telling, what it’s trying to say, and if it has a very good beginning, middle and end. First of all, the script is everything to me. It’s the foundation of what the filmmaker is trying to say. That’s of utmost importance. Then I look at my character and if it’s an interesting character for me to play. Does it have something I can bring to it? Is there some sort of sensibility I can add to it that hopefully helps to elevate the project and helps the writer and director say what they are trying to say. I want to support them and I hope they are going to make a movie that is going to support me.

One of your latest projects is “Dead Night.” What made this a story you wanted to be a part of telling?

There is a lot going on in this movie. There is some supernatural stuff, along with some Hamlet-style tragedy happening. My character is a political candidate. At the time we were shooting the movie, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had just become the candidates for their respective parties. It was a very highly-charged time. I thought, “This is fascinating storytelling!” There is the double narrative of the true-crime TV show and the narrative of what happened to the Pollock Family on that one “Dead Night.” [laughs] It also felt to me like it was very timely and my character is just crazy, bonkers, interesting and fascinating. I thought it was a dream role! It was a really, really different and interesting project. Horror fans are always clamoring about “We need something different. We want something fresh and new.” I felt like this was something different that I hadn’t seen before, so I was really excited when they started talking to me about being a part of the project.

It’s really interesting to hear that you are plugged into your fanbase and that it has an impact on the projects you choose. What has that experience been like for you?

I didn’t expect to become a horror movie actress. It wasn’t what I was looking for in terms of my career. I mean, I like horror movies as much as the next person. I like to be scared and I thought they were fun and exciting. There are a lot of fans out there that are voraciously looking for the next film to watch. It was only when I came back a few years ago with “You’re Next,” which I got a call out of the blue to be in that movie, that I realized I got cast because of the older movies that I had done. They wanted a genre veteran to be one of the parents in the movie and they asked me. I loved that script, so I joined that movie. It was around that time that I joined all of the social media sites. I did that because Simon Barrett, writer of “You’re Next,” said, “Nobody is going to call you, email you or get together with you. Everyone is too busy. The way we are all connected now is through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.” I said, “Really?! I have to find out what you’re doing, I have to visit your social sites.” He said, “Yes.” [laughs] I said, “Okay! I can do that!” I did and I started keeping in touch with people. It was amazing to realize how connected, supportive and wonderful the horror community was. I don’t think we have better fans than horror movies fans! I mean, there is no comedy film community, drama or thriller convention! It’s all horror movie people! They are some of the most positive, supportive and collaborative people that I’ve come to know. After I did “You’re Next” and it did so well, I realized, “Oh, these are my people! I’ve finally found my people!” They might have found me a few years ago but I’ve finally found them! At that point, I made a really firm decision in my mind that I was going to rededicate myself to the horror genre, the fans, and movies that have supported me since the beginning of my career. I find myself continually working in the horror genre and I haven’t been as a happy working in my career as I have been over the past few years. It’s been an amazing experience. I go to the film festivals all over the world and I get to speak about the genre, women in film, work on cool movies and meet the fans from around the world. It’s been the most wonderful experience of my life!

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we are lucky to have you!

Thank you!

The legendary Barbara Crampton

Let’s jump back to “Dead Night.” Tell us a little about your process for bringing a character to life.

Every movie and every role is different. When I first read a script, I think, “Okay, I’m going to play this part. How can I approach this?” There is always a little bit of fear involved initially. I find myself thinking, “I hope I measure up. I hope I can do it.” Then, I sort of relax from that and think, “What are the sensibilities that I have about this character that I can bring to it to support what the filmmaker is trying to say. Very early on in my education, when I was in college, the first thing our instructors told us is that you have to support the playwright. At the time, I was doing plays. I always think about that, which became, “How can I support the filmmaker and their vision in my approach?”

I also think about how I can play this in a way that is possibly something you wouldn’t expect. I don’t want to play the simplest version of it; I try to entertain myself just as much as I’m trying to entertain you. I also think about how the other people are going to play their roles because you don’t want to have two people playing the same notes. The movie is like a piece of music and everyone has to play a different instrument to make the orchestra, which will make it truly come alive and sing. If I think a person might play it in a certain way, I attack it from a different point of view. I become a mini-psychologist and try to put all of the pieces together. Then I go through the script and I do my work on it. I look for where the most intense scenes are or where the climax of my individual story is. I look for where the love is and where the hate is, where the character is faltering or overcoming obstacles to potentially get what they want. Every character is looking for something entrance to justify the things that they do, even if they are a compromise character. There are a lot of layers that you look for but those are a few of the things that I initially use as tools to work on the character.

I also work on the dialogue. I ask myself, “How can I say this to the best of my ability? Where are the highs and lows with my dialogue with another actor?” I put hashmarks in between the dialogue where I feel the energy changes. I even go as far as to determine what word in each sentence I want to highlight. I work on all of that and I’m very particular in my approach to my work. Once I’ve done all that, I try to forget at all and try to have it be as natural as possible! For me, it’s kind of a long process but the longer you have to work on your script the better. I like to have a lot of time for rehearsal and time with my script. I like to talk to my director and determine what movies have influenced them in their lives or even what movies have influenced this film they are making. I always like to talk to the other actors to see how they’re approaching it. Sometimes the directors don’t want to talk to you and they just want you to show up on set! At that point, you just have to work with whatever energy the other people are giving you. It requires a lot of trust at that point. I like to build a solid foundation with a lot of prep work before I get onto a set.

Barbara Crampton

You’ve obviously conquered the world of horror but you have many productive years ahead. What else are you anxious to tackle?

I’d like to do a little bit more television. I think there are some really dynamic things being made, especially in the realm of horror, that are on TV right now. So, I’d like to expand my movie career and work a little bit more television!

You’ve certainly inspired a lot of people with the projects you were a part of in the past and with the amazing work you continue to put out. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Just keep going! [laughs] Like I said, I had a long absence of my career where I wasn’t really getting a lot of roles in my middle to late 30s. I just said, “Okay, I’m just going to the focus on my family and doing some other creative things in my life. I think I’ll just give it a rest for a little bit.” I was able to come back. With that said, I think you have to look at your career as a long-term plan. You’re going to have good years and lean years, but you’re going to have to keep going. It’s important to try to work with other collaborative people who are interesting, dynamic and artistic. Look for people who can bring something to your life and you can, in turn, bring something to them. Continually seek out those other creative people and collaborate with them. That’s easier to do today than ever before! People are making their own amazing material these days, so getting into a groove of working with other like-minded people is key to longevity in this business.

Thanks so much for your time today, Barbara! I’m sure our paths will cross again soon and I wish you continued success!

I hope so! Thanks so much, Jason! Talk to you soon!

Bradford Baruh’s ‘Dead Night’ hits theaters and VOD on July 27, 2018 via Dark Sky Films. Follow the continuing adventures of Barbara Crampton on social media via Facebook and Twitter.

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New Poster and Trailer For Bradford Baruh’s ‘Dead Night’ Revealed

New Poster and Trailer For Bradford Baruh’s ‘Dead Night’ Revealed

With genre icon Barbara Crampton as lead actress and producer, Dark Sky Films has announced the theatrical and VOD release of Bradford Baruh’s directorial debut, DEAD NIGHT. From the producers of John Dies in the End, DEAD NIGHT hits theaters and digital/VOD on July 27, 2018.

Film Synopsis: James and his wife Casey load up their two teenage kids and head out to a remote cabin in Oregon for a weekend trip. When James heads into the snowy forest in search of firewood, he encounters an enigmatic woman passed out in the snow. Bringing her back to the cabin for help, the family has no way of knowing that the woman’s presence is the catalyst for a series of events that will change their lives forever.

Mixing original storytelling with timeless supernatural elements, Bradford Baruh’s directorial debut features a stellar cast of genre favorites including AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton and delivers a wild and blood-soaked weekend away.

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MOHAWK: Ted Geoghegan On Bringing His Captivating New Thriller To The Screen!

MOHAWK: Ted Geoghegan On Bringing His Captivating New Thriller To The Screen!

Ted Geoghegan exploded onto the scene in 2015 with the award-winning 2015 horror hit, “We Are Still Here.” His directorial debut paid tribute to the filmmakers and movies that helped shape him as a young creative. In 2018, Geoghegan returns to entice audiences with another captivating film. A no-holds-barred action-thriller, “Mohawk,” centers around a young Mohawk warrior who is pursued by a contingent of military renegades set on revenge after one of her tribe sets an American camp ablaze. Fleeing deep into the woods they call home, Oak and Calvin, along with their British companion Joshua, must fight back against the bloodthirsty Colonel Holt and his soldiers – using every resource, real and supernatural, the winding forest offers. Praised as “gripping” and “a wild ride” by Indiewire, and “realistic and very personal” by The Hollywood Reporter, “Mohawk” unfolds over the course of one bloody day during The War of 1812. Birth. Movies. Death. says, “[Mohawk] does a fine job of reminding us that sometimes the truest horror is that of our own history.” RogerEbert.com called the film “A searing genre hybrid.”

“Mohawk” stars Kaniehtiio Horn (“Hemlock Grove”), Justin Rain (“Fear the Walking Dead”) and Eamon Farren (“Twin Peaks: The Return”) along with Ezra Buzzington (“Justified,” “The Middle”). It also includes Ian Colletti (Arseface from AMC’s “Preacher”) Jonathan Huber (aka WWE Superstar Luke Harper) making his big screen debut. “Mohawk” marks the second team-up between writer-director Ted Geoghegan, producer Travis Stevens, cinematographer Karim Hussain and Dark Sky Films. After a triumphant run on the festival circuit, Dark Sky Films announced the theatrical release of “Mohawk” on March 2, with a simultaneous VOD and HD Digital release.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Ted Geoghegan to discuss the inspiration for the film, the challenges he faced in bringing it from script to screen and the lessons learned along the way.

It’s been a few years since we connected about your last film, “We Are Still Here.” You returned with an awesome new period piece called “Mohawk.” Tell us about your inspiration for the project.

To dive right in, with “We Are Still Here,” it was literally a love letter to the filmmakers I had grown up adoring. I wanted to make something that paid tribute to all of these amazing artists I had spent my whole life loving the movies of. For my follow up, I wanted to do something different in that I wanted to pay tribute to not necessarily a filmmaker but a group of people I had felt somewhat indebted to. When I moved to New York City years ago, I knew nothing of the Mohawk people. The word Mohawk to me growing up was simply a haircut! When I moved to New York, I started noticing that everywhere I went, I would see these signs that said “Made with Mohawk construction … ” or “Mohawk ironworks.” I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. I went home and started reading up on it. I discovered not only were the Mohawk these incredible people who were indigenous to New York and its surrounding areas, but they also built the city that I now call home. The Mohawk quite infamously claimed to not suffer from vertigo and that claim actually allowed them the ability to work on virtually every huge skyscraper during the modern birth of New York – The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building and so on. These are all iconic structures that were built predominately by Mohawk people. I felt some sort of odd connection, although I myself am a white man of European descent. I was blown away by the fact that there were these foreign people who were native to the place that I now called home that I knew nothing about. I found myself wanting to learn more and more about them. From there, I started studying and researching their culture. The more I learned about them, the more I was impressed by these people and felt quite indebted to them. As it goes, after “We Are Still Here,” one of my chief concepts was to make a film about people that I cared about. These were people that I almost immediately fell in love with upon moving to New York. Thankfully, the pieces came together, and we were able to make the film with real Mohawk actors and with the support of the Mohawk Nation. I feel quite good about it!

As you should! “Mohawk” is a great film and I loved the authenticity. As you alluded to, “Mohawk” is a bit of a 180 from “We Are Still Here.” Was the new approach something you did by design?

Absolutely! I love haunted house movies. I adore haunted houses and I plan on making many more stories about haunted houses, but I also didn’t want to be the haunted house guy. I know that there are so many stories to tell and there is only so much time we are given to be able to tell those stories. I decided that, given the fact I was very lucky to be able to make one film, the fact that I was able to make two made me feel that I owed it to myself to make sure that the second story was different.

Fair enough! One of the things that makes this film spring from the screen is the awesome cast you assembled. What went into finding the right people to make these characters jump from script to screen?

The heart and soul of the film is Kaniehtiio Horn, who plays Oak. Kaniehtiio is a native Mohawk and she came recommended through my director of photography, Karim Hussain, who had actually directed her in a segment of “The Theatre Bizarre” several years ago. She was the star of his segment of that anthology, which was called “Vision Stains.” When I proposed to him the idea of making this film called “Mohawk,” he said, “Ya know, there is only one person I can think of for the lead in this film and she is actually Mohawk.” I immediately jumped at the opportunity and said, “Please, please, please! I’d love to meet her!” We jumped on a call, very early on, and spoke about it. She was extremely passionate about the project. Not only is she a very proud Mohawk but she actually told me, “If you hire anyone else for this part, I’m going to kill you!” [laughs] I felt quite lucky! Once we had her onboard, we reached out to other actors. Something I was very intent about, especially during the casting process, was to make sure all the Native American roles in the film were portrayed by Native people. Unfortunately, there are very few Native American people left in the world anymore due to all the atrocities of history and that, unfortunately, makes ones talent pool so much smaller. We wanted to make sure we were still able to cast this film with actual Native American people and, when we started looking around, we were blown away by all of the incredible talent we were discovering! We discovered Justin Rain (“Fear The Walking Dead,” “Blackstone,” “Defiance”), who plays Calvin Two Rivers, who is a Cree. I was actually familiar with his work from a handful of other things. Because he is a Cree, he was extremely excited about the idea of playing a Mohawk. He told me that he had always admired the Mohawk people and was really in-tune with their culture, so he jumped at the opportunity to play one. Sheri Foster, who plays Oak’s mother, was also extremely excited about the film. I was familiar with her work from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix, where I thought she was extremely fun. In “Mohawk,” she has a small but pivotal, not funny role but she certainly lands it! [laughs] With our antagonists, we were very lucky to find a who’s who of phenomenal actors. Ezra Buzzington, who plays Holt, I was very familiar from a lot of his horror titles over the years. Noah Segan has been a longtime friend and someone I’ve been very eager to work with! Robert Longstreet was someone else I was very excited to work with after seeing him in countless films over the years. We were very surprised and excited about the prospect of working with Jonathan Huber, who is best known as Luke Harper from the WWE. He had never acted professionally before. I always tell him, “Every single day, you are acting professionally in the WWE!” [laughs] He jumped at the opportunity for his first big screen role and really slayed it! He’s a wonderful, wonderful talent and I feel very honored to have been able to direct him in his first film. I hope that he gets to make a lot more!

Ted Geoghegan’s ‘Mohawk’ hits theaters and VOD on March 2nd, 2018.

Was there anything you wanted to attempt with this film, from a directorial standpoint, that you might not have done in the past?

Yes! From day one, we knew this was going to be an extremely challenging film. The fact that we were making a period film set 200 years ago during the War of 1812 on a limited budget, is something that no one would dare try to achieve. Films of this scope are typically made for not only tens but hundreds of millions of dollars. We wanted to try to be able to tell a story that felt as big and as powerful but on an indie level. The way that we chose to do that was by making the story more intimate. I took a page from James Cameron who said, while directing “Titanic,” “You not only care about the deaths of thousands of people, you care about the deaths of two people.” That was something we wanted to do with this film. Whereas both Calvin and Joshua are essentially the Mohawk Nation and the pursuers are the new White Americans. They are indicative of their entire cultures both in how headstrong and ridiculous they are and how strong and terrified they are. Both sides of the film are absolutely terrified beyond words. To get back on point, what I wanted to do was make something that was wildly different. I wanted to do something I knew would be challenging and something I felt would surprise people. We made a lot of creative decisions, very early on, about what we wanted to do with the film to set it apart from other period pieces. The last thing we wanted this film to look like was diet “Last of The Mohicans.” We wanted to have our own feel and, in doing so, we made bold creative choices. The film was shot with natural light, which is something that movies typically never do. That was very exciting, to be able to work with natural light and make a film that glows. Every shot of the film just has a sparkle to it that, to me, feels like old John Boorman. I wanted to make sure the film did not look as scary as it felt. Ya know, the forest is typically the sort of location that you film at night and find the most terrifying places you can shoot in. We wanted to show how beautiful the forest was and show that it’s the sort of place that is absolutely stunning and untouched but that’s where these atrocities occurred. When you’re making a film that’s essentially a dramatic chase film and you’re shooting it in these beautiful backgrounds, it comes down to a question of “How do you raise the tension?” We did that through our actors! It’s less about where they are and more about who they are. Ultimately, it does have a lot of similarities to “We Are Still Here.” I do think “Mohawk” and “We Are Still Here” are spiritually very similar. They are both intensely character driven. They are also films that are both about a bigger picture but ultimately about these people and a very small amount of people. Also, although “We Are Still Here” is set in the ‘70s, it’s essentially a modern film about people dealing with the sins of their fathers and “Mohawk” is a film about those fathers. It’s about these original sinners and how what they are doing is going to resonate for hundreds and hundreds of years afterwards, just as the characters in “We Are Still Here” are still dealing with the fallout of things that happened hundreds and hundreds of years earlier.

Ted Geoghegan’s ‘Mohawk’ is a can’t miss thriller.

We are still relatively early in your career as a director. However, you accomplished amazing things as a screenwriter. Looking at that aspect of your work, how have you most evolved?

In terms of screenwriting, which is something I’m still very passionate about and want to continue doing forever. I feel the evolution hasn’t been necessarily a creative one as much as it’s been a technical one. When I started out as a screenwriter, I followed the advice of, “Write whatever you want! Just let your imagination run wild!” I wrote screenplays that no one on Earth could ever potentially produce! [laughs] They were these gigantic, overblown spectacles where I poured my everything into them thinking, “Well, one day this will get made!” The simple truth of the matter is, “No, no it won’t!” [laughs] As the years have gone by, I’ve really been excited about how to write to a budget. Not a specific budget but rather to say, “This is how you write a film that could potentially be made.” Being able to create something that has the potential to be made without sacrificing your creativity. Those little technical tricks and little ways that you can turn your brain on and off at just the right moments have really helped me, as a writer, create projects that are much more viable in terms of being brought to the screen.

We can look to the career you are building as an inspiration. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

That’s a biggie right there! Ya know, I came from a small town in Montana. I used genre films as a way to escape from the monotony of living in the middle of nowhere and having very little to do. I took that passion and that drive for something that I loved and decided that I wanted to share that with other people. My first screenplay was produced 17 years ago and I directed my first film four years ago. There are 13 years in between those events and there, of course, were plenty of struggles in between and they continue to be struggles to this day. However, it’s important to remember it’s not an overnight process. I guess if there is one thing one might be able to take from me, a man who at 38 is on his second film, is that you just have to keep plugging. I know it’s trite and I know that so many filmmakers say it but, ultimately, we’ve got to come to grips with the fact that overnight successes are few and far between. The reality is that the majority of us will spend our entire lives pushing and pushing in order to try to make these things happen. I love genre films. I don’t know where I’d be without them. If anything I’ve made can make anyone’s life easier or remotely happier, I feel as though I’ve succeeded.

Where are you headed in the future when it comes to the stories you tell?

Right now, I’m very focused on politics. My work will likely remain quite political for a while and until I feel it doesn’t need to be political. I want to remain in the genre film industry. I don’t see myself moving outside of it. I do feel as though, in these troubled times, there is certainly a place for popcorn cinema, comedies and romances. For me, I think the greatest way in which you can tell stories that need to be told from reality is through the lens of the fantastic. You can see that in many of the great genre masters from the past – from George A. Romero to the Italian masters who were really striking back at their governments at the time. These were people who deeply, deeply cared about the world that they were living in but chose to tell the story through a wild way. That’s what I hope to continue to do with my work.

That’s awesome and I appreciate your voice. I’m sure we will cross paths again soon with the work you’re are doing! I wish you continued success!

Thank you so much, Jason! I really appreciate it! Talk soon!

‘Mohawk’ hits theaters on March 2, 2018. Follow the continuing adventures of Ted Geoghegan on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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BACK TO THE SWAMP: A Review of Adam Green’s “Victor Crowley”

BACK TO THE SWAMP: A Review of Adam Green’s “Victor Crowley”

The year is 2006. The horror genre is being beaten down with nothing but uninspired sequels, prequels, and remakes. The original slasher film has all but died. Something seems to be missing from the genre. Where’s the fun? In comes a young, up and coming director Adam Green 6 years removed from his last film, “Coffee and Donuts”. He recruits the man who many consider the greatest Jason Voorhees of all time, Kane Hodder, and revitalizes a genre many thought they would never see again.

“Hatchet” hits the festival circuit in 2006 with an eventual DVD release on December 18th, 2007. While it received mixed to low reviews by critics, fans all over the world raved. Finally, a return to form for the horror genre. “Hatchet”, an old school American horror, received massive success from fans and gained a cult following that follows the franchise today. By 2013, Green had worked on two sequels and was ready to give up the character of Victor Crowley to focus on other works. He drops a bombshell with the incredible, “Digging Up the Marrow”. A film that, like “Hatchet” before it, wore its influences on its sleeve. From here Green notes that he’s finished with the series from a film standpoint but you’ll be able to keep up with “Crowley” in comic book form; the “Hatchet” series was dead…or so we thought.

August 22nd, 2017, the original film’s “10 Year Anniversary” show. Hundreds of “Hatchet” fans and stars pile into Hollywood’s Arclight Cinema, expecting to see a presentation of the film that started it all. Instead, fans were elated to see that not only was a fourth film already made, but they were about to see it in all its glory. Needless to say, the hype was real and fans left the theatre ecstatic to see the lovable crazy redneck humanoid back in action. As “Victor Crowley” unleashes on all of us in VOD and Blu-ray, did it meet expectations or should we ship it back to the swamp to rot? Find out as we cover the return of the millennium’s icon of horror, “Victor Crowley”.

Keeping with one of my favorite tropes about any “Hatchet” film, Parry Shen is back! However, for the first time in the franchise, he’s reprising his role as the sole survivor/paramedic from the third film, Andrew. It’s been 10 years since that fateful night on the swamp. Andrew has become a writer and is making his rounds on the press circuit sharing his story. Things aren’t going so well for the survivor as we open on him being interviewed on live TV by his ex-wife Sabrina (Krystal Joy Brown). No one back home believes his story, in fact, they’re under the impression that Andrew is the maniac who axed all of those people years ago. Things take a turn for the worst when his publicist, played by the “Sleepaway Camp” star Felissa Rose, convinces him to return to the swamp for a large sum of money. It isn’t until he gets on the plane that he realizes it’s to film a show for Sabrina. The three, along with a film crew (including “Impractical Jokers” star Brian Quinn) are off for a romp in the swamp. Meanwhile, across the water, a few “Crowley fans” (Laura Ortiz, Katie Booth, Chase Williamson) are trying to make a film of their own. Of course all hell breaks loose as our killer decides to join in on the fun of both parties. What follows is a return to form for writer/director Adam Green: film filled with gore galore and big laughs.

Along with the cast members I’ve already mentioned, the highlight of the film would without a doubt be Dave Sheridan. This man is hilarious in every film he’s in and doesn’t get enough credit. He plays the boat driver/aspiring actor, Dillon, and he steals every scene he’s in. As you watch the film you can truly feel how much fun this cast and crew was having while filming. Definitely my favorite group of death puppets in a “Hatchet” film. The man of the hour, Kane Hodder, is better than ever. This is the greatest Crowley has looked since the film’s original inception, that credit goes to both Hodder and the make-up department. Nightmare fuel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I’m glad to have Victor Crowley back in my life. Green understands his franchise and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in any shape. That’s not a knock, on the contrary, it’s commendable for the man to return and give the fans a film they’ve been clamoring for for years. I’ll be honest, if you’re not a fan of the “Hatchet” series this movie is not going to change your mind. It’s a tour de force of crude jokes and gut wrenching violence. Understand what you’re getting and you’ll have a blast. I recommend “Victor Crowley” to any film of the franchise, and anyone who needs their slasher fix. Here’s to hoping a “Digging up the Marrow” sequel is next!

“Victor Crowley” hit DVD and Blu-ray on February 6th via Dark Sky FIlms.

About The Writer: 
Dylan Lyles – Staff Writer
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason popping out of the water. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the MonsterMania Con on the east coast. You love him and he loves you!
Twitter: @thedylanlyles

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Catch ‘Impractical Jokers’ Star Brian Quinn In A New Clip From Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’

Catch ‘Impractical Jokers’ Star Brian Quinn In A New Clip From Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’

Adam Green’s VICTOR CROWLEY is FINALLY coming to VOD and digital platforms tomorrow! Below is a clip featuring the hilarious Brian Quinn from ‘Impractical Jokers.’ Check out the clip below!

Synopsis: Set a decade after the events of the series’ first three films, VICTOR CROWLEY reunites Hatchet mainstays Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th 7X‘s Jason Voorhees) and Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow) for an all-new, horrifying journey into the haunted, blood-drenched bayou.

In 2007, over forty people were brutally torn to pieces in Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp. Over the past decade, lone survivor Andrew Yong’s claims that local legend Victor Crowley was responsible for the horrific massacre have been met with great controversy, but when a twist of fate puts him back at the scene of the tragedy, Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and Yong must face the bloodthirsty ghost from his past.

VICTOR CROWLEY’s ensemble cast also features Laura Ortiz (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes),Dave Sheridan (Scary Movie), and Brian Quinn (truTV’s “Impractical Jokers”). Writer/director

Adam Green proudly returns to the director’s chair of his series that, upon debuting in 2007, was energetically touted as a return to “old school American horror,” and whose maniacal fan-favorite villain quickly secured a place among slasher royalty.

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Ted Geoghegan’s ‘MOHAWK’- Official Trailer and Theatrical Poster Unveiled!

Ted Geoghegan’s ‘MOHAWK’- Official Trailer and Theatrical Poster Unveiled!

After its hit festival run, Dark Sky Films has announced the theatrical release of Ted Geoghegan’s MOHAWK on March 2nd, with a simultaneous VOD and HD Digital release. MOHAWK is a no-holds-barred action-thriller marking the second team-up between writer-director Ted Geoghegan, producer Travis Stevens, cinematographer Karim Hussain and Dark Sky Films after their award-winning 2015 horror hit, We Are Still Here.

After one of her tribe sets an American camp ablaze, a young Mohawk warrior finds herself pursued by a contingent of military renegades set on revenge. Fleeing deep into the woods they call home, Oak and Calvin, along with their British companion Joshua, must now fight back against the bloodthirsty Colonel Holt and his soldiers – using every resource both real and supernatural that the winding forest can offer.

Praised as “gripping” and “a wild ride” by Indiewire, and “realistic and very personal” by The Hollywood Reporter, MOHAWK unfolds over the course of one bloody day during The War of 1812. Birth. Movies. Death. Says, “[Mohawk] does a fine job of reminding us that sometimes the truest horror is that of our own history.” and RogerEbert.com called the film “A searing genre hybrid.”

MOHAWK stars Kaniehtiio Horn (Hemlock Grove), Justin Rain (Fear the Walking Dead), and Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks: The Return) along with Ezra Buzzington (Justified, The Middle), and including Ian Colletti (“Arseface” from AMC’s Preacher) and Jonathan Huber, WWE Superstar Luke Harper making his big screen debut.

Produced by Dark Sky Films, the producers and distributors of We Are Still Here as well as House of the Devil, Stake Land, Hatchet 2 + 3, and many more, and Snowfort Pictures (Cheap Thrills, We Are Still Here, Starry Eyes) this is The Last of the Mohicans meets The Last House on the Left.

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Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’ To Hit VOD And Blu-ray On February 6th From Dark Sky Films!

Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’ To Hit VOD And Blu-ray On February 6th From Dark Sky Films!

Dark Sky Films has announced the official release date of Adam Green’s VICTOR CROWLEY, the surprise fourth film in the fan-favorite Hatchet franchise. The film will be released on VOD, Digital and Blu-ray and DVD on February 6, 2018. Kept tightly under wraps for over two years, the slasher reboot unexpectedly debuted this past August. The highly anticipated release was shown in theaters across the country in October  as part of the “Victor Crowley Road Show.”

Set a decade after the events of the series’ first three films, VICTOR CROWLEY reunites Hatchet mainstays Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th 7X‘s Jason Voorhees) and Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow) for an all-new, horrifying journey into the haunted, blood-drenched bayou.

In 2007, over forty people were brutally torn to pieces in Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp. Over the past decade, lone survivor Andrew Yong’s claims that local legend Victor Crowley was responsible for the horrific massacre have been met with great controversy, but when a twist of fate puts him back at the scene of the tragedy, Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and Yong must face the bloodthirsty ghost from his past.

VICTOR CROWLEY’s ensemble cast also features Laura Ortiz (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes),Dave Sheridan (Scary Movie), and Brian Quinn (truTV’s “Impractical Jokers”). Writer/director Adam Green proudly returns to the director’s chair of his series that, upon debuting in 2007, was energetically touted as a return to “old school American horror,” and whose maniacal fan-favorite villain quickly secured a place among slasher royalty.

@darkskyfilms
www.darkskyfilms.com
www.victorcrowleylives.com

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Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’ To Hit Home Video On February 6th, New Poster Art Revealed!

Adam Green’s ‘Victor Crowley’ To Hit Home Video On February 6th, New Poster Art Revealed!

Dark Sky Films today announced the official release date of VICTOR CROWLEY, the surprise fourth film in the fan-favorite Hatchet franchise. The film will be released on VOD, Digital and Blu-ray and DVD on February 6, 2018. Kept tightly under wraps for over two years, the slasher reboot unexpectedly debuted this past August. The highly anticipated release was shown in theaters across the country in October  as part of the “Victor Crowley Road Show.”

Set a decade after the events of the series’ first three films, VICTOR CROWLEY reunites Hatchet mainstays Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th 7X‘s Jason Voorhees) and Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow) for an all-new, horrifying journey into the haunted, blood-drenched bayou.

In 2007, over forty people were brutally torn to pieces in Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp. Over the past decade, lone survivor Andrew Yong’s claims that local legend Victor Crowley was responsible for the horrific massacre have been met with great controversy, but when a twist of fate puts him back at the scene of the tragedy, Crowley is mistakenly resurrected and Yong must face the bloodthirsty ghost from his past.

VICTOR CROWLEY’s ensemble cast also features Laura Ortiz (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes),

Dave Sheridan (Scary Movie), and Brian Quinn (truTV’s “Impractical Jokers”). Writer/director Adam Green proudly returns to the director’s chair of his series that, upon debuting in 2007, was energetically touted as a return to “old school American horror,” and whose maniacal fan-favorite villain quickly secured a place among slasher royalty.

@darkskyfilms
www.darkskyfilms.com
www.victorcrowleylives.com

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Francesca Eastwood, Natalia Leite & Leah McKendrick On Bringing ‘M.F.A.’ To Life!

Francesca Eastwood, Natalia Leite & Leah McKendrick On Bringing ‘M.F.A.’ To Life!

When director Natalia Leite (“Bare”), writer/actress Leah McKendrick (“Bad Moms”) and leading lady Francesca Eastwood joined forces to bring the ‘M.F.A.’ to the masses, they had no idea of the incredible bond they would form during the process. The hauntingly powerful film, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Award at the 2017 SXSW festival, tells a gripping story of a young woman forced to take action to protect herself in “perhaps the bravest, rawest rape-revenge thriller yet” (No Film School). Noelle (Francesca Eastwood, “Final Girl,” “Outlaws” and “Angels”), an art student struggling to find her voice, is sexually assaulted by a fellow classmate. Attempting to cope with the trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker, leading to a violent altercation culminating in his accidental death. Noelle tries to return to normalcy, but when she discovers she is only one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus, she takes justice into her own hands. A vigilante is born – retribution is the inspiration she needs. Directed by Natalia Leite from a debut screenplay by actress Leah McKendrick. McKendrick also co-stars in the film along with Clifton Collins Jr. (“Westworld,” “Knight of Cups”).

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught with the inspiring women responsible for the success of this powerful film  — Natalia Leite, Leah McKendrick and Francesca Eastwood. In the interview, they discuss their passion for the film, the challenges they faced in bringing it from script to screen and the lessons learned along the way.

It’s great to have you all here today. Tell us about what sparked the initial idea for this film and what made it a story you all wanted to tell.

Leah McKendrick: It started from me feeling very frustrated by the things I was seeing in the media. There were stories on constant repeat about girls being assaulted on and off college campuses who the system had failed. I was feeling frustrated, hurt and angry, so I started writing this script. Eventually, I got it to a place where it wasn’t so dark because it had been very dark originally. I tried to infuse some humor and levity into it along the way. It wasn’t long before I was on the hunt for the perfect director. I knew in my mind that I needed someone who loved it and had a connection to it. To be honest, that’s not that hard to find as most women have experienced something and would feel a connection to a story like this, so that wasn’t even the hard part. For me, the hardest part was finding a director who understands it and knew what to do with it. I’m not a writer that wants to direct. I’m a writer that loves directors and I want a director to make it their own. That’s the most important thing to me; that it’s someone who is going to share your baby. Natalia was that person! I had seen her work and I had felt that she had a very intimate connection in film. I also felt that she could be the perfect addition and the perfect person to helm the ship. That’s when she came onboard.

Natalia Leite: The script came my way and Leah reached out to me. I read it and really loved the script. Honestly, I just felt that I had to make this movie. I was really drawn to the concept and thought the writing was really strong. We had some conversations where I told her what I would do. I felt that we were a really good match and the film would be a good way to talk about a social issue that I care a lot about in a way that is so accessible to people and can be entertaining while still opening up a bigger conversation.

What went into finding the right mix of actors to bring these characters to life on screen?

Natalia Leite: In terms of casting, we had to cast very fast because we had access to Chapman University and we had to try to shoot it before school started. We hit the ground running as soon as I signed onboard. Francesca Eastwood’s work came my way through our casting director, Arlie Day. Arlie sent over some materials and I loved Fran’s work, so we met for lunch and talked about what I was going to do with the film tonally and what she would bring to it. We wanted to make sure we were on the same page and that we were gelling together. It was perfect! Once we found her, no one else could have fit the role! Peter Vack is someone who I’m friends with and Leah had also thought of him for that part, so he came on. A lot it came from reaching out to people we had some connection to and thought could be good for the part. Clifton [Collins] came onboard somewhat last minute but was fantastic in the role!

Leah McKendrick, Natalia Leite and Francesca Eastwood.

You all came together to make this film and you all saw it from different angles given your role in the production. What was the biggest challenge you faced on the project?

Francesca Eastwood: I think the biggest challenge for me was the subject matter and the timing. While it wasn’t something I had initially thought of when I read the script but my mom said to me, “Wow. You really go through a lot physically in this film.” It was a very physically demanding role in terms of running around, long shoot days and shooting every day relatively quickly. That was a challenge but it’s also part of why this project is so awesome! The challenges were all good things! It was just as emotionally challenging as it was physically challenging. It was an extremely rewarding project to be a part of.

Natalia Leite: For me, it was a lot about tone. Like Francesca said, it’s a very sensitive subject matter and a controversial film. Finding the right balance between making it feel very realistic, yet not having it be a sad story all the way through was a challenge. It came down to making good informed decisions on how we would talk about this issue while still having moments of being entertaining and thrilling.

Leah McKendrick: I think the hardest thing for me was getting over the idea of the script being your baby. It’s just one thing and it’s going to change. A lot of things may end up on the cutting room floor and you have to get over the initial vision you had when it was just you and no one else involved!

Natalia Leite: Yeah, that was a difficult thing for me as well.

Francesca Eastwood: Yeah, as an actor reading it, that was hard for me too.

Leah McKendrick: I think, as an actor, when you pick up a script and are reading it, you become attached to the vision you have in your head. Maybe that comes from being an actor; becoming very attached to the journey that the characters go on. If one character gets cut out or whatever, your vision starts to feel incomplete. I think the strongest writer is the writer who can get over that. My mentor, Shintaro Shimosawa, who is also a producer on this film, is a writer. He is so un-precious about his work. He is always all about the best idea. I think while you can think you just want the best idea, I think you can be emotionally stunted by the fact that you’ve only been seeing what you have in your head and can be cutting yourself off from greater possibilities. Sometimes you’re just not seeing straight and you just want what is in your head. Getting over that and realizing that what can be created is better than what was in your head or on the script is definitely a lesson I’ve learned. It took me two years to write my script. There are points where it is just you alone in the coffee shop with your vision and you have to fight for it. Every step of the way you are fighting for that vision, so as it gets dismantled it can be heartbreaking. With that said, I’m very proud of our film and how it changed because of Nat and Franny, the producers, performers and creators on the film. I’m really proud of the end product!

It’s cool to see you all working together in this capacity and creating such an awesome film as the end product. What did you bring out in each other creatively?

Leah McKendrick: Building off of what I just said, I would say that Nat forces me to see my work in a completely different way. An example is that, as a writer, I use a lot of my real-life experiences. The scene where Fran’s character, Noel, is being peer-critiqued was different initially. In the original script, it was a conversation she was having with her professor and her professor is saying, “This isn’t good enough.” Nat came in and said, “I went to art school and a big part of art school is being critiqued by not only your professor but your peers.” I thought, “Oh my god! I love that!” I would’ve never thought of that because it wasn’t something that occurred in my real life. I went to school for acting and there is also peer-critique but, in my mind, I was remembering these moments where professors would pull me aside and say, “This isn’t good enough.” So, to answer your question, I think that Nat brings this whole world of experience to my work. I love the sense of judgement that it brings to Noelle’s early life in the film. She feels so naked initially. I really love that Nat is always forcing me to come up with the weirder, more unique, intimate and vulnerable version. Another great example is with the pool. Initially, after she went through her trauma, she ran and got in the shower because that is where I go when I feel very alone and very vulnerable and I need to feel more in touch with myself. Nat said, “I want her to do something weirder, more unique and more off because she is feeling off.” So, we had her walk into the swimming pool. That’s some of my favorite footage in the film. I think that another director might have just taken my script and made it the way it’s written, where I think Nat has challenged me to get a little weirder. With Franny, I think you are right in that we just trusted her and you ran with it but I love that! When I watch the film, sometimes she looks like a little girl to me, especially the scenes with my own character, Skye. I feel like we look like little girls and that is something we bring out in each other but, at the same time, there are times where we are vicious to each other, crying, upset and angry. I feel, as an actress, I’m able to both love and hate her at times in the film. In real love, I have the most love for you! I think we played it really well from both sides and it’s something that comes across really well. I think that is why people say to me so often that we work well together in the movie because it’s so sad, loving and all of these things. I think that is because we have that chemistry in real life?

Natalia Leite: I would add to what Leah said about pushing her to a certain place, I feel that you also did the same for me. I have a tendency to linger in these moments and I’m sure from an outsider’s point of view, I seem like a pretentious artist to sit in this scene for so long! [laughs] Leah would be like, “No, no. We’ve got to move. We’ve got to get to the point. We don’t just need to sit here. We get that she’s in pain.” I think that gave it more of a commercial appeal and made it a little more hard-hitting and faster, which was really good. It was such an amazing collaboration between the three of us because we are all strong women with strong ideas and all felt very invested in this story and film. There were times where we had to hash it out. I might think something should be one way in a scene but someone else felt it should go another. We would have to figure it out. For me, as a director, I’m also like, “OK, if you feel really strongly about it being this way that I didn’t really envision, convince me.” I’m always open to hearing someone else’s opinion about something, especially when it’s not my writing and ultimately Fran is the one who is living the character. It was a really awesome collaboration in that way.

You are inspiring females. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as artists?

Natalia Leite: Thank you for calling us inspiring females! [laughs] I love that! Thank you! I almost dropped the phone. [laughs] This film had a small, small budget and we really had to be a team and work together to make it happen. We had to really trust each other. Starting out, we didn’t even know each other when she sent me the script. Since making the film, we have all become friends, which is awesome! I think the lesson is that we all need to do it together!

Francesca Eastwood: I would say the most important lesson is to take risks, to do the things you believe in and also the things that you’re afraid of. If you believe in it and your heart’s in the right place, it’s a pretty good feeling getting to share that.

Leah McKendrick: If somebody would look at my career, I would hope it would inspire more women to take things into their own hands. No matter if they want to be directors, writers or actors, they shouldn’t be afraid to create their own work. You don’t need to wait for the industry to give you permission. As many leaps forward as we are making as female filmmakers, there is still so much work to do. I think you’re in trouble if you’re waiting for permission. For a long time, I felt so frustrated by the industry while trying to get work as an actress. That’s when I started making my own work. I’m glad that I did because not only can I make my own roles but I can make work that I believe in and speaks to the sort of issues in the world I feel need to be spoken on. I hope more women will do that!

That’s an awesome way to look at things! Thank you all for your time today! We can’t wait to see what you all have in store for us in the years to come and wish you continued success!

Dark Sky Films’ will release the haunting thriller,’M.F.A.’, in theaters, VOD and HD Digital October 13, 2017.

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