Welcome to Hayes Hudson's House of Horror (4H)

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Check out my interview with the director and lead actress of the short film, CONTACT

If you have not seen or heard about the short film, CONTACT, please take a moment to watch it now! It is a great, psychological film that reminds me of the early short films of David Lynch. It is odd, creepy, disturbing, and beautiful all at the same time. The film is directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars Robb Leigh Davis and the beautiful Zoe Daelman Chlanda (check out her official website HERE) as two lovers who share quite an experience with an certain drug.
Before you go on to the interview, take a moment and CLICK HERE to watch the short film, CONTACT, as the interview may contain a few spoilers.

Here is my interview I had the pleasure of conducting with Jeremiah Kipp and Zoë Daelman Chlanda:

4H: First off, I want to thank you for sharing this film with me and my readers. Let me start by asking where you got the idea for this short film?

Jeremiah Kipp: A few years ago I worked with a screenwriter friend named Carl Kelsch on a short horror movie entitled THE POD, which was also about a hallucinogenic drug. While I was very satisfied with how that project turned out, I remained haunted by an image that didn’t make it into the movie—which was of two lovers kissing, and their faces seeming to fuse together. You can trace the inspiration back to my enthusiasm for Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, whose woodcut of “The Kiss” particularly unnerved me. I wondered if an unsettling little tale could be built around that graphic sensual image, which feels like it was pulled out of a nightmare.

4H: What does the film mean to you? I have watched it multiple times and I seem to get something different out of it each time I view it. Is it an anti-drug message? A pro-drug message? Each time I watch it I can look at it and take it different ways.

JK: When you make a film, the meaning has to be precisely clear to the director, the cast, the crew—everyone has to understand, because then there’s specificity within every onscreen action. But if I were to spell that out for the viewer, what would be the point? The enigmatic quality of a movie is what allows it to bear repeated viewings, much like when we listen to a piece of music over and over again. It pleased me when I made a film called THE CHRISTMAS PARTY that festival audiences reacted in incredibly different ways. That particular narrative follows a young boy attending a holiday party run by Christians—the kind that want everyone else in the world to be Christian, too. French audiences considered it a satire on America, New England audiences labeled it social realism, San Francisco audiences found it as a horror movie, and religious festivals saw it as the struggle for grace. All of these interpretations are valid, and I hope CONTACT is also open to multiple viewings. What it means to me should stay close to myself, leaving the meaning open to the viewer.

4H: Zoë, how did you get involved with CONTACT, and with Jeremiah in general, as I see you guys have worked together before?

Zoë Daelman Chlanda: Jeremiah and I worked together on the set of Alan Rowe Kelly's THE BLOOD SHED. We also had the chance to get to know one another during the commute to and from that set—we car-pooled. We stayed in touch after that project wrapped, and have remained friends and continue to collaborate professionally. Jeremiah brought CONTACT to my attention and asked if I'd like to be part of it. I had no hesitation saying yes. I loved the script, and trusted that the team Jeremiah assembled for the project would do it justice.


4H: Zoë, from a glance at your IMDB page, it looks like you are mainly acting in films that fall within the Horror genre. What is it you like about Horror films and acting in them? And do you want to act in other genre of films in the future or do you want to stick to Horror films?

ZDC: Horror films have given me the chance to really flex my acting muscles. The genre deals with extremes. I love the challenge, and I am honored that the filmmakers who I have worked with continue to offer me roles. It’s a community that is extremely supportive and fiercely loyal. I don't see why I would stop working on horror films if the scripts are compelling. I enjoy acting, and I don't have a preference for any specific genre. I love variety. I hope to have a long career that encompasses many different films of all genres.


4H: The use of black and white was beautiful in this film. I liked that the main couple was an interracial couple. The black and white actors, in contrast with the black and white shooting style was very nice visually. What can you tell us about the use of color, or lack thereof, in this film?

JK: Black and white was always part of the concept. We pared down every ingredient of the movie—the plot, the narrative, the characters—as a way of getting closer to pure cinema, telling the story through pictures. There is something magical about black and white, something beautiful that seemed appropriate to this story. That creative decision was in place before we started casting the film. Once Zoë was selected for the lead role, we had to find a co-star to match her strong presence. I saw fifteen different actors for the role, all different types, and Robb Leigh Davis felt like the best choice. He has a worldliness about him; he knows who he is and has an easy confidence. While I agree that the choice of a black actor and white actress is compelling, the true heat was generated between Robb and Zoë as actors—they seemed a good match, and I believed them together. It helps that they had a good rapport off-screen, and were incredibly generous with each other during rehearsals and throughout the shoot.


4H: Zoë, how hard is it to act in a film with almost Zero dialog in it? It is easier or harder than a film like VINDICATION, where you have a monologue that lasts for several minutes? In some ways I would think it would be harder as you have to get a across to the audience what you are thinking and feeling with absolutely no words. What are your thoughts on that?

ZDC: Great question. Personally, I find it easier the less dialogue there is. The way I prepare for roles is by researching the emotional life of the character first. When I feel like I've got it, I then start putting the dialogue to it. Memorizing lines is the homework that's not as interesting, in my opinion. It feels like work. Monologues are the toughest for me. I worked very hard on that scene in VINDICATION. I'm grateful for the cast and crew on that set - everyone did their best and it helped me do mine.


4H: What genre would you place this film? It doesn't seem to be pure Horror, but does have a Horror aspect with some gore during the drug scene and a good scare at the end.

JK: When I made the film, it was with the full intention of creating a horror movie. It was specifically commissioned for a downtown Halloween film festival called Sinister Six, which screens every year in New York City. There are scares and a gory sequence, but what I prefer to have in my movies is an underlying tension that runs throughout. When the audience is wondering what it going to happen next, you’re posing dramatic questions to them and it keeps them engaged and interested. That’s inherently dramatic, so are we to call CONTACT an eerie drama? I do like the idea that it would appeal to audiences outside of the horror crowd, and hope it does, but at heart I am a genre fan.


4H: Speaking of the drug scene, I have to ask about the scene where the two lovers are kissing and begin to pull away and are connected by something. What exactly did you mean this to be and to mean?

JK: Someone asked me recently whether that image was a metaphor, and it’s true that the horror movie can provide us with poetic images to represent something terrifying. Imagine, in real life, being connected at the hip to your lover and not being able to pull yourself away and define your own space. Now propel that idea to its most extreme, or its most grotesque. Horror movies are able to tap into literal images of our deepest fears. The special effects were created and sculpted by Daniel J. Mazikowski, a mad genius. He needed very little explanation of the body horror imagery we were going for; we mostly discussed the practical application of the gag and the comfort level of the actors, who were good sports throughout the entire three to four hour process.
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4H: I have to admit the very end scene gave me quite a startle. I had the lights out and the headphones up loud and was not expecting that in the least! What exactly was the meaning behind that, or was it just for the nice jump scare at the end? Was it setting us up for something else in the future?
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JK: There is indeed a shock at the climax of the picture, but forgive me if I leave the meaning open. The final image was a discovery we made in the editing room, and we had a feeling it would arouse a strong reaction in the audience. Our intention was to make them jump out of their skin, but there have been different takes on why we might have gone in that direction. You must understand that the movie no longer belongs to me, but to those who watch it.
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4H: Zoë, I noticed you have a film coming up called DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. Is that a remake of the 1973 film of the same name? I am assuming so based on the synopsis I read. I like the 1973 film, especially the surprise ending, and I always thought it would be a great candidate for an update. Can you tell us a little about this project?
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ZDC: You are right! I am working on a remake of DON”T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT. I'm very excited about this project. I'll be working with Alan Rowe Kelly and Anthony Sumner, among many other talented cast and crew. The original is amazing and we plan to honor it with a remake that we hope will also wow audiences.
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4H: Jeremiah, can you tell us about any projects you have coming up, especially any pertaining to the Horror genre?
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JK: There is a feature length monster movie I have written, which hopefully find its way before the cameras in the near future. I am also working in collaboration with the producer of CONTACT, Bart Mastronardi, on an anthology film based on the work of an American Gothic writer, and am contributing a disturbing vampire tale to executive producer Marv Blauvelt for his anthology creature feature, which will start shooting sometime this year. After our experience making CONTACT, I hope to work with the cast and crew on many other projects, since this collaboration was very inspiring and rewarding for me.
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4H: Zoë, are there any other future projects you would like to tell us about?
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ZDC: I'm looking forward to collaborating with Jeremiah and [CONTACT director of photography] Dominick Sivilli this spring on an as of yet unnamed project. I have DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT shooting this summer, and a project with the lovely and talented Susan Adriensen happening sometime in the Summer/Fall. I am always keeping my ears and eyes open for projects, continuously submitting myself and auditioning. Its a wonderful roller coaster ride.
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4H: Finally, if I have left anything out, or if there is anything else you would like my readers to know about Jeremiah, Zoë, CONTACT, or anything else, please let me know!
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JK: We are very proud of this film, and hope viewers are entertained.
ZDC: If you haven't already seen CONTACT, please do so. I am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful film!
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Jeremiah and Zoe, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! I look forward to keeping up with both of your careers going forward. I am also looking forward to going back and checking out some of your older film that I was not aware of!

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