You have recently directed two episodes of the webseries In
Fear of - in a few words, what are they about?
The pleasure of making these episodes was in their sheer simplicity. In
Podophobia (Fear of Feet), a young couple’s foreplay that gets
deadly when the man triggers a horrific experience from the woman’s
childhood. Apehephobia (Fear of Touch) is a surreal nightmare about
a victim being pursued by faceless hands.
were your inspirations when writing Podophobia and Apehephobia, and
how can you relate to these fears on a personal level? And what are you,
personally, afraid of?
My inspiration for Podophobia
came from the fact that we had a producer, Paul Pastore, interested in
financing a movie about that subject matter. After some research, I
tracked down some actual stories that informed our narrative.
I get freaked out when I’m on crowded subway trains or in public spaces
where swarms of people whirl around me. Amazing that I have lived in this
metropolis for over 20 years; God bless New York City!
I have described your two
episodes of the series as "moodpieces" - something you can at
all agree to, and how would you describe your directorial effort?
with these films I wasn’t trying to tell a story. It was
all about creating this hallucinatory feeling, this highly charged
atmosphere, like out of a bad dream. We wanted to make these
small offerings that would shake things up for the audience.
can you tell us about your cast, and what made them perfect for their
hit upon my favorite subject when it comes to talking about these
particular films. The actors are truly front and center, and
if the viewers have any emotional response from these films, it’s
because of the performances. (If the movies fail, I take full
Podophobia is a film about a relationship. Xiomara
Cintron and Alejandro Santoni were generous scene partners; their
chemistry and give-and-take show us everything. Alejandro had to be the
solid foundation, sincerely listening and trying to understand. (And yet
also we were able to tap into another side of him as well, the part that
wanted to destroy her.) As for Xiomara, I had worked with her
on a few movies by this point and she wanted to go to an extreme place.
She worked herself up into a fever and allowed herself to unravel. You can
only get actors there if they allow themselves to go there, and if they
trust you. I must also mention that we had some terrific
child actors in this project, and contrary to popular belief kids can be
great to work with as long as you select them (and their parents) well.
They have to want to be there and believe in what you’re doing; and
again it comes down to trust.
Kelly Rae LeGault
Kelly Rae LeGault [Kelly Rae
LeGault interview - click here] was the star of Apehephobia. I just
feel like there’s something so brash about her. Something daring and
committed in her work that feels like punk rock. And this collaboration
was about creating a series of personas or masks. She’s playing three
different characters, or three shades of the same person. I
felt like Kelly was working in much the same way Madonna or Lady Gaga do,
stylizing a certain look to communicate a feeling.
You just have to talk about the actual shoots and
the on-set atmosphere for a bit!
was filmed in two days. Our first day was all about
shooting the heart of the movie, which is the scene between the couple.
As memories of the trauma consume Xiomara, she tears the room
apart. You make scenes like this in a controlled state of
mania; it’s as if you’re doing an exorcism. But the conditions have to
be safe and specific for the actors and the crew. They find their way to
this place through rehearsal, acting games, relaxation exercises, whatever
it takes. And I’ve found that if the actors work through something
primal, they feel great afterwards. It’s not a painful experience making
these films; it’s a lot of work, but the actors feel a profound sense of
did a shot where the child actors had to witness Xiomara having a full
breakdown. During the take, which lasted at least two
minutes, it truly felt as if she were falling apart. The kids looked to
each other, as if reality and acting had blurred. After I
called cut, I felt like the kids needed to hear that this was a
performance. I immediately asked Xiomara, “Were you in total control of
your instrument?” She answered yes, and the kids saw that she was, in
fact, totally fine. The boys looked to each other, and in that moment
something clicked into place for them. That you can go anywhere, do
anything, when you’re performing—and you return home perfectly safe.
It’s one of the great things about being an actor; it’s probably why
they tend to live longer than the rest of us.
remember Apehephobia being a very calm set. Since
Kelly and I knew all of the actors who were playing the hands, there was
no tension. We were very clear about the sequence of shots. The set was
closed, so there weren’t any extra people there hanging around, which I
find distracting. Everyone was self-assured, respectful and communicative.
If anything, I have some regrets about not creating situations where we
had more identifiable conflict for our main character, or moments where
she was fighting back against her plight. We filmed some sequences like
that, but for one reason or another (having nothing to do with Kelly’s
performance) they didn’t work in the edit.
How did you get
involved with the project in the first place, and what can you tell us
about the series' mastermind/co-producer Scott W. Perry [Scott
W. Perry interview - click here]? And what was your
W. Perry is an independent filmmaker based in Long Island. For a while, he
was a kind of right hand man to horror director Chris Garetano before he
broke away to start creating his own body of work. I’ve worked with him
on a few movies now, and enjoy our creative exchange.
Fear of, Scott had found a list of hundreds of phobias, and
asked me if I’d be interested in participating in a webseries about
them. Since the intention was to make projects that were fast and cheap, I
knew we’d actually be able to bring them over the finish line very
quickly. Scott was very supportive of these strange little films, which
were decidedly non-narrative and more like experimental sketches.
Working on In
Fear of, how much freedom were you actually given
concerning story, look and feel of your movies?
total freedom in every way. Our only restriction was the
budget, which was intentionally kept very low.
you tell us about audience and critical reception of the series and your
episodes in particular so far?
Gosh, these episodes I
directed were just so weird and offbeat. They’re not for everyone. Some
people like them and regard them as poetry, others think of them as
pretentious. Podophobia tends to get more visceral responses; I
love to see the audience wince when the more suggestive grotesqueries are
shown onscreen. Scott Perry seems to have charmed audiences with Monophobia,
the episode starring the wonderful team of Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here] and David
Marancik. He had the opportunity to screen it in Buffalo and
folks seemed to laugh their asses off; and critics seem to have latched on
to that one as being their favorite.
Any future projects you'd
like to talk about?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Right now, I’m in the final stages of
post-production on an eerie short film called The Days God Slept,
written by playwright Joe Fiorillo and starring Lauren Fox (from Darren
Aronofsky’s Pi), set in an unusual gentleman’s club where not
everything is as it seems. It’s a boy meets girl story, but one where
the girl has secrets. Our hero reaches the point of no return, where he
has to ask himself, “How much do you really want to know?” It’s
a project I’m very excited about. You can watch the trailer here:
Your/your series website, Facebook,
YouTube, whatever else?
recently launched my Web site, where viewers can see many of the films
I’ve directed over the past 10 years.
available for viewing here:
happy to present the work for everyone to see, and am looking forward to
creating many new films in the years to come. The short film format has
been very rewarding, and I’m curious to explore more feature filmmaking
opportunities. Let’s see what the future has in store, since we can
never predict what is right around the corner.