Your new film Words
Like Knives - in a few words, what is it about?
A disturbing and surreal exploration of real life horrors far
scarier than any traditional monster.
Honestly, itís hard to
just say a few words on this film. Itís very complex with a lot of
layers and possibilities, hitting on some very difficult and taboo
material to portray in any light. This is the material that tends to
attract me, discovering the horrendous effects of real life issues through
the scope of horror, in this case the damaging effects of bullying and
many forms of abuse. I believe horror is the perfect medium to show the
darkness in this world and humanity. It is a film that deals with
something so horrible most of us will never be able to understand, but
more or less things that plague many people every day. I wanted to present
the horrors involved, but just putting possibilities out there based on
this poor girlís struggle between what is truth and what are rumors
taking a life of their own. It is up to the viewer to try to decide what
is reality and fiction in their perception of what theyíre seeing as
Like Knives touches some very dark issues in very intimate way -
so was any of this based on your own personal experiences, and what were
your inspirations to write the movie to begin with?
Thankfully, I havenít had to suffer anything quite like this
character has. Most of my scripts are based on frustrations, wrongdoings,
or injustices I see in my life or society as a whole. This script wasnít
based on myself or anyone I knew, but it certainly dealt with something
very real that many suffer from, feeling like a prisoner, often finding no
light at the end of the tunnel. That is such a sad and crippling thought,
but in some cases that is an unfortunate, grim reality. That being said I
think everyone has been teased, bullied, had rumors spread about them, or
didnít fit in at some time in their lives. You feel and emphasize with
the main character no matter what you believe is true. Sheís being
tormented in so many ways, something no one should have to deal with.
The idea for the script
really came about based on the idea of a rumor spinning out of control and
how damaging that could be. I wanted to think of the absolute worst, most
horrific rumor possible to base this off of; something that was so cruel,
you had to question the morality and maliciousness of someone who would
think of something like this and spread it, using it as if it were a
the script was written, what got the project off the ground?
There was briefly an idea of doing a webseries or some short of anthology
series of short films all based on the same theme of a rumor getting out
of control from different directors, writers, and collaborative teams.
When I proposed this idea, director Travis Legge [Travis
Legge interview - click here] was very interested in
reading my script. We had previously worked together on the grindhouse
supernatural/action trailer Monster Mash. That was a great
experience and came out as both a visually polished and very fun trailer.
Travis and I were interested in working together again and he really
responded to the script. We were very much on the same page on what we
wanted to accomplish, a gripping and disquieting tale of a surreal and
overpowering struggle to hold on to oneís sanity. We ended up deciding
Like Knives deserved a real run at festivals and to be treated
as its own entity due to the strength of the piece. We moved forward from
there with getting the teaser and poster together and launching an IndieGoGo-campaign. We used a pretty minimal budget for this, but we were
lucky enough to raise more than our goal for funds so we could do the
needed justice in bringing this story to life.
have not only written Words
Like Knives, you also play the lead. Given this is a very
challenging role, did you always intend to play her yourself, and what did
you draw upon to bring your character to life?
I rarely write a character with the intention of me playing them.
This was such a strong, challenging character, so victimized and pushed to
her limits. There are so many layers to her and she really is not meant to
be your average girl, sheís different. There is a certain amount of
exploration of why this is and what this truly means. I wanted the
challenge of portraying a compelling and difficult role like this; it is
really the type of role I crave as an actress. Also, having written it and
having a complete knowledge and well realized perception of the character
and this world she was in, I really felt compelled to bring her to life
As an actress, filming Words
Like Knives, is the best experience
I have had yet in terms of pushing myself and allowing myself to grow as
an actress. It was actually during filming the noir thriller, Year of the
Ox, that I realized that Iím a method actor. Iíve always been
concerned with physical situations being as realistic as possible. It
gives me more to work off of and puts me in the shoes of that character,
making the surroundings and situation more real. During the interrogation
scene, duct tape is ripped off of my lips. As you can imagine, this goes
on for many, many takes. The crew wanted to fake it more. Sure that would
have been a little more comfortable, but within reason I would rather be a
little uncomfortable and deal with minor pain, nothing extreme of course,
if it means it will be more true to the character and situation. Someone
made a comment about me being method. My reaction was that I really
wasnít, but I realized at least physically I was very method. This got
me to think about how I really work best as an actor and physical realism
or having something to work off of physically is HUGE in pushing my
performance to another level.
Like Knives, I
pushed myself beyond this. Itís a very depressing and dark character
among everything she is attempting to deal with. I absolutely love being
on set, especially when I get the chance to work with so many likeminded
friends. However, any time I felt myself being more lighthearted and
joking around, I had to take myself away from everyone and be more
solitary. I drilled myself with constant depressing, self-loathing
thoughts even. I had to keep myself in a dark place in every way possible.
Itís the performance Iím most proud of so it clearly worked and gave
me a chance to grow and learn as an actress.
Kelsey with Travis Legge
you tell us about your director Travis Legge [Travis
Legge interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
like? And what was it like to have your vision realized by someone else -
who at times even orders you around in your own story?
Travis was wonderful. There were a few producer-type things I handled
while filming, but while the film was in production, he pretty much took
over everything from the outside looking in, allowing me to completely
focus on my character. That was huge. I really needed to stay in that
mindset as much as possible. I knew we were completely on the same page
and that he would bring out everything that was needed for this to be an
effective film. Trust is really essential when more or less handing your
script over to someone, even more so when youíre acting in it in a very
challenging portrayal that your focus needs to be on. This film wouldnít
have been made if that trust didnít exist. He enhanced everyoneís
performances, picking up on little things even to push us all and to bring
out the difficult balance of the very possible two different realities
that were coexisting in the same world.
Kelsey with Michael Wexler
you like to talk about your co-stars for a bit?
Absolutely! I am blessed that we got such incredible talent and
how much everyone put in to this project.
First of all, Michael Wexler - just wow! - he really nailed the perfect combination of a caring,
parent and a creepiness that cuts at you in such a disquieting way. The
character is completely gray, a balance of black and white, both
terrifying and genuinely caring. Also, so much of him lives in this
surreal world, so itís hard to judge whether one side is his true
identity or whether the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Both the
performance of my character and the dad were the most essential and it was
incredible to have him to work off of as well. Valerie Meachum also did a
wonderful job as my mother, who gave a fantastic performance. Within just
one scene she subtly portrayed her love, concern, and own potential inner
Kelsey with Myke Wilson
Melissa Revels definitely had the catty bitch and essential
antagonist of the film down. Again, making it easy to work off of her
dynamic and life like portrayal of this horrendous self-involved girl who
really couldnít care less about the damage she created. Mike DiIacova
also did a great job as the caring, loyal best friend, Miles. He
definitely shows such desperate, genuine concern and lightness, attempting
to save Emma from her darkness.
Myke Wilson is among the
best young, male actors I have gotten the chance to work with on a few
occasions. I hadnít even met or known of Myke when I wrote the role of
Landon, but both looks and performance wise, that scene is 100% exactly
what I had in mind in terms of Landon when I first wrote the script.
Itís a rare occasion as a writer when a character can come to life so
realistically just as you imagined. We happen to work very well together
too, especially considering the scene we shot was not only very
uncomfortable, but also the first scene of the film that was shot.
you tell us about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
I think both were very different for me than
any other person on set. Generally, it was laid back and fun, but
professionalÖand intense! Like I mentioned before, I really couldnít
allow myself to have too much fun even though I was with such a talented
and awesome group of people who I love to work with. I had to keep myself
more isolated and thinking depressing thoughts that I could use towards
the character. For most of the shooting I was on very limited sleep and
extremely caffeinated; feeling drained, jumpy, and anxious being an
additional element I could use physically to add to my performance.
few words on critical reception of your movie so far?
Iím just so excited the film is out there and starting to be seen by
others. Itís been almost a year and a half since we first started moving
forward with the film and itís incredible just to have it completed and
ready to be viewed. Considering my involvement in it and the nature of the
material and what is portrayed, I am very vulnerable as an artist in
respect to viewpoints, hearing and awaiting peopleís reactions. So much
of myself as an artist and what I strive to portray and accomplish through
my art, is in this film and among some difficult, touchy material that
isnít easy to watch. There is a lot up for debate or up to the
viewerís digression in how they want to perceive things that are
presented in the film, which I noticed in your review and found your take
interesting. I am happy most of the reviews and thoughts I have heard so
far have been incredible, really understanding the film and showing what
an impact it had on them. I am a film critic myself and am totally open to
negative constructive criticism as well as long as itís thorough and
been given some real thought and consideration. I think this film is
something that is going to have a lasting effect. For some it will be
troubling to process, where they really might not be able to see the
bigger picture of the exploration and social messages. It is not for
everyone, but for those that can really take it in, I think it will really
Any other future projects of yours you'd like to talk about?
Itís more of less in
the development stage now, but The Hazed is a psychological slasher film I
wrote and will be starring in. Itís another very brutal, surreal tale
about someoneís past coming back to haunt them. It centers on very cruel
pranks, which turn to eventual torture, in a sorority who use hazing to
get revenge on our main character. Iíve never understood why anyone
would put themselves through something like that for acceptance,
ďsisterhoodĒ, or even career connections. In the case of the main
character itís her way of proving that sheís not afraid and is willing
to take whatever torment she has to in order to put one mistake in her
past where she would like to keep it.
There are still so many engaging yet
inconceivable mindsets involved such as once you go through this type of
torment, being demeaned as a person, and many are physically and mentally
damaged (if not killed, which has happened more than you would think) how
could you do this to another person? Is it the only release? The only way
to feel like you are no longer the victim to have the illusion of control?
Either way, itís a horrendous cycle that continues, scarring all along
the way. Weíre currently exploring the best options in how to go about
funding before we move forward, but there is a teaser trailer and posters
for the film which were shot last June to be released soon.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
My website: http://kelseyzukowski.com
My IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3857479/?ref_=tt_ov_wr
Words Like Knives IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2624690/
My Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kelsey.zukowski
Words Like Knives Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RumorsCanKill
Thanks for the interview!