Your new movie The
Kingdom of Var - in a few words, what is it about?
Kingdom of Var is about a skeptical college student who watches a film
allegedly made in the 1500's featuring a sorcerer performing a weird
ritual. After dismissing this, she releases the spirit of the sorcerer,
who proceeds to attack her at every turn. The film is an exploration of
the theme of belief and how Sonja goes from a skeptic to a believer in the
supernatural through the events of the film. It also explores other
things, like abusive relationships, and in some ways is almost like an
epitaph for the VHS format, but belief is the main concept.
Kingdom of Var features a very complex mythology at its core - is
this based on any existing mythology or is it made up out of thin air?
Kingdom of Var is a completely original story not based on any
pre-existing material. It was primarily influenced by a dream I had where
I saw a movie from the 1500's, which looked almost identical to the
one in the movie.
sources of inspiration when writing The
Kingdom of Var?
the movie The Ring. I never cared for the film much, Naomi Watts is good
but otherwise it's just another lame Hollywood remake, and I didn't see
any of the Japanese films. But I loved the idea of a haunted movie, where
you watch it and the ghosts haunt you or curse you as a result. Someone
also told me the film reminded them of Carnival of
Souls, which may have
been an unconscious influence. I also think the work of Philip K. Dick was
a big inspiration for the story.
Do talk about your movie's
approach to horror for a bit!
this film, I sort of wanted to create a synthesis between psychological
horror and a schlocky exploitation movie. Sort of like how The
a synthesis between supernatural horror and a slasher movie.
What can you tell us about
the effects-work in your movie?
of it is great, like the throat-slitting, or the woman peeling her own
face off. Some of it is kind of cheesy, like the massacre scene at the
end, where you can kind of tell they're not really stabbling themselves,
just sticking the knife beside themselves and I'm trying to hide it with
camera angles, and there's no blood either. I wanted the film to be gorier
than Peter Jackson's Braindead. That was my fault, though, the FX artists
did a great job.
A few words about your
directorial approach to the story at hand?
film was made with a painfully low budget, but I storyboarded the entire
thing and knew all the shots, and we used mostly natural lighting with one
LED kick light, so we were able to move pretty fast, and I never do more
than a few takes anyways. I don't understand directors who do 20, 30, 40
takes of every shot, it seems to me all the energy is in the first few
takes, since the scenes are continually fresh and new. It's like they
think they're directing a play and have to rehearse everything 100 times
so the actors don't blow their lines. This is the primary reason why you
have film shoots which go on for 20 hours a day. On this film we almost
never went over ten hours a day. I never improvise anything either, the
only ad-libbed scene in the film is the scene on the balcony with Madison
Graves and Vida Zukauskas.
Do talk about
your key cast, and why exactly these people?
cast Vida Zukauskas because she reminded me of Shelley Duvall from The
Shining. I think she exudes the kind of nervousness and anxiousness I
wanted the character to have. Sarah Swerid was the first actress cast, and
I think her performance is very strong. My favourite performances in the
film are those of Mark Brombacher, Madison Graves, and Matt Sears, who I
think are brilliant. I think everyone in the cast is great and enjoyed
working with them very much.
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot lasted 13 days - my lucky number - ten days of principal photography
and three pickup and reshoot days, the latter of which were spread out
over an entire year. I had a surprisingly difficult time getting the film
up to 80 minutes. The on-set atmosphere, for the most part, was very
relaxed and jovial.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
in talks with a distributor, I can't say any more than that at the moment.
What I CAN say is that the film was rejected from the Blood in the Snow
Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. It did also have a theatrical screening
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
Kingdom of Var?
many people have seen it, but those who have seem to really like it.
Any future projects you'd like
want to make a drama for my next film, sort of like the movie Once Were
Warriors. I just want to make the one, though, all my other movie ideas
are horror and sci-fi related. I prefer making fantasies, not gritty
realistic dramas, but I want to tell this one story. Otherwise I have like
ten other ideas going at any time.
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
saw Pee-Wee's Big Adventure when I was four and it scared the living hell
out of me, so from then on I've been interested in movies. I attended film
school at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, where I made several
shorts on 16mm. I never liked school and just did it to get my parents off
my back, but it was a good experience nonetheless. I've done practically
everything you can do on a film set - director, producer, writer, actor,
cinematographer, production assistant, set dresser, art director, grip,
camera assistant, driver - basically everything except sound. But now I
just want to focus on writing and directing. Films generally are all made
the same way, so once you've worked on three or four sets, you got it.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
Kingdom of Var?
of my film school stuff, I made two independent short films prior to The
Kingdom of Var in 2016, respectively titled Polydoris and Cordelia and
Trapezohedron. Polydoris and Cordelia is about a novelist who moves into a
haunted house, and it contains what I'm most proud of in my directing
career thus far: a farting sandwich. Trapezohedron is about a woman who
watches a film of her getting murdered, but she sees it after chasing
anti-psychotic pills with vodka, so who knows what's really happening?
Kingdom of Var was in post-production, I directed another short
called Dana about a cannibalistic serial killer played by John
Migliore [John Migliore
interview - click here].
When the film was screened at a festival in Toronto, someone in the
audience gagged. I recently completed another short called The Star Light
Motel which is coming out soon, and am also working on an action short
with an actress named Cassidy Civiero.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Scorsese, Coppola, Bunuel, Fassbinder, Raoul Walsh, Billy Wilder,
Hitchcock, Michael Curtiz, Brian De Palma in the 1970's.
The Godfather, Goodfellas, The
Shining, Aliens, Henry: Portrait of a Serial
Killer, Wild Strawberries, American Movie, Bonnie and
Clyde. As far as
horror goes, The Exorcist,
The Texas Chainsaw
... and of course, films you really
two worst movies ever made are Troll 2
and Mac and Me. Plan 9 From Outer
Space is a technical abomination, but plot-wise it's just the usual alien
invasion nonsense. Troll 2 and
Mac and Me, on the other hand, are
punishingly bad films. The negatives for those movies are far more demonic
than the haunted video in The
Kingdom of Var. I also can't stand the
infantile Problem Child movies, or the severely awful Clifford with Martin
Short. Generally, though, if a movie is no good I'll just shut it off, and
I'm not a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 either.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Kingdom of Var Facebook page -
Vimeo page -
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Thanks for the interview!