Your new movie X - in a
few words, what is it about?
Our movie is a queer thriller about a young woman named Christian King,
known to her guests as X, who hosts masked charity balls at her
beachside estate that double as sex parties. The debauchery that takes
place at these events is all fun and games until the arrival of an
unexpected guest from Christianís past threatens to bring to light her
darkest secret: She has a hidden camera in the guest bathroom.
What were your sources of
inspiration when writing X?
The initial idea came to me out of nowhere. When I brought it to my
writing partner Hannah, she suggested we structure it like a
Shakespearean tragedy, with sort of a chorus of party guests. We ended
up taking some Hitchcockian tropes and running them through a queer,
feminist lens. When we started, I had just seen Mulholland
Drive and also the work of Xavier Dolan, so both of those also
had an influence. Looking back, I think the sense of otherness and shame
that comes with being queer were the main driving forces behind the
can you tell us about your co-writer Hannah Katherine Jost, and what was
your collaboration like?
Hannah and I had been creative partners for years in college, and X was
both our first project after graduating and our first time writing
together. I pitched her my idea and gave her my story treatment, and
then she wrote the first draft and we went back and forth from there.
Our writing strengths compliment each other well - Iím very focused on
character drama, reveals, and symbolism, but can be clunky, while Hannah
is much better than me at writing human characters and has a more crisp,
deft approach. In addition to co-writer, Hannah was also a producer and
art director, so she wore many hats, and the two of us incorporated the
design of the movie very heavily in the writing process.
To what extent could you
actually identify with X's
lead Christian - or any of the other characters for that matter?
Iím very different than all of the characters, but Hannah and I put a
lot of ourselves into all of them - especially Christian, Danny and
Stella. Even though Iím not a predatory voyeur, I immensely relate to
Christianís shame, and even moreso her desire to create a community
she felt she never had. Our hope is for the audience to feel empathy for
this character who is doing something terrible and violating, and sees
herself as a monster. I also definitely relate to Dannyís experiences
in the film.
touches some, shall we say, quite delicate topics - so how did you deal
with bringing them to the screen from a director's point of view?
I always just try to approach everything with an earnest and honest
perspective. Our only two focuses in this respect were telling the story
in as engaging a way as possible, and making sure the actors were
comfortable and felt like they had agency. Exploitation was not only not
our goal, but would have gotten in the way of our goal. At the end of
the day, the actors are just as much storytellers as I am, so all that
mattered was making sure we were synchronized in that pursuit.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
In the same vein as my last answer, I just believe in ruthlessly
pursuing the story and using that to make every decision. The color of
curtains, the way a shot is framed, the background score are all
elements that come quite easily when you decide them based on what the
character is going through in the scene. Of course, I have a heightened
perspective and a sort of theatrical approach to how I look at the
world, so my execution in that regard may be a little different - not to
mention this was my first movie, so I was learning as I went and making
quite a mess along the way! But I love having a naive approach, I think
sometimes too much analysis and knowledge can be paralyzing, at least
Do talk about X's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
We had gone to school with Hope Raymond, the lead actor, but when we
asked her to audition we didnít expect sheíd be available. About ten
seconds into her reading I immediately started thinking about how we
were going to style her - it was effervescently clear that she would
bring the charm and swagger the role needed. Hannah had worked with
Brian Smick (Danny) and Valerie FaÁhman (Lynda), and knew Eliza Boivin
(Stella Marie) from a class, but all of them auditioned. Zach Cowan
(Jackson) was also from our alma mater. The cast was just a motley crew
of talented Bay Area actors, none of whom were named talent, but they
each had the spark that we were looking for.
A few words
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The shoot took place at a gorgeous beach house on the coast of Big Sur
owned by one of our executive producers and wonderful host Susan De
Nicolo. The shoot was like camp - we would shoot all night, and the cast
and crew would sleep in, go for jogs on the beach, cook and relax while
Hannah, Kevin, and myself would panic about how to make everything work.
It was a constant state of stress in the most comfortable house in the
world. One onset disaster involved a ceiling sprinkler wreaking watery
mayhem on everything in sight - but every member of the cast and crew
stayed to help us clean up after. Our team was so unendingly committed
to telling this story. I was especially grateful for our cinematographer
Chantel Beam, who was so imaginative and calm that I felt very able to
focus on my job and know it would look amazing.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of X?
Critical reception has been all over the map - we won ďBest Overall
FilmĒ at the Indie Gathering in Ohio on one hand, and have been
skewered by some critics on the other. Itís definitely not for
everyone, and itís the work of rookies and so it has that DIY, raw
edge to it, but the audiences weíve put it in front of have responded
warmly and loved the story. I love midnight movies, and so I love that
sort of both a serious drama and ridiculous and campy at the same time!
future projects you'd like to share?
Hannah and I are writing another movie that has some thematic overlap
is very different. Itís not finished, but that script feels like the
kind of movie Iíve always wanted to make, and the story feels even
more personal for me than
What got you into
filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the
I started putting on shows for my family and writing ďbooksĒ bound
with construction paper when I was 3 or 4. I think I started involving a
camera when I was around 12, and I learned how to edit on a blank tape
with a VCR around 14. I started making music videos with my sister
lipsyncing to Britney Spears songs where she would dance to choreography
by my mom. I went to San Francisco State to study Cinema, and joined a
co-ed cinema fraternity called Delta Kappa Alpha, where I met Hannah,
Kevin, and Hope Raymond who plays Christian in the movie. I became president of
DKA and was in the thesis program at SFSU.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
X was my
first real movie, but I tried to make a feature film in college when I
was 19, which I spent 3 years working on and was unable to finish for a
variety of reasons. I also made a lot of random work for classes, a few
films with my friends, and a lot of fan videos. The feature I tried to
make was probably the most important film school experience I had even
though it wasnít for any class. The concept behind it still excites me
even though most of it was garbagio.
Meanwhile, in addition to X,
we also made three music videos to songs from the score while we were in
post production, which are short films in their own right, and which we
also took to festivals.
talk about your production company The
Foundation, and how did it come into being, and what's the
philosophy behind it?
We started The
Foundation just so we could create an LLC during
production. Our philosophy is to create subversive work that disturbs
the comfortable and comforts the disturbed. Just speaking for myself, I
find the concept of ďnormalĒ to be menacing, so Iím always
thinking of how I can destroy norms. I feel like Iím still growing and
learning and that weíve barely scratched the surface of possibility.
In that same vein, The
Foundation is also about being limitless in
medium: telling stories across different media, including music, short
films, music videos, and who knows what else!
How would you describe yourself as
I would say I am quite hands on.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
I recently became obsessed with Anna Biller, who my friends always were
talking about. Xavier Dolan is also a big inspiration. I love Luca
Guadagnino, I recently got into Derek Jarmanís work. I really admire
Debra Granikís creative process, even though my work isnít exactly
neorealist! And then John Waters is also very comforting to me.
I find a lot of the ďgreatsĒ kind of boring even though I love their
work and think itís super valuable. David Fincher is so fun to listen
to though, I could hear him talk for hours, as is Agnes Varda!
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
There are too many to mention and they change, but some of my favorites
are Black Swan, Batman
Returns, The Rules of Attraction, Vertigo, Call
Me By Your Name, I Am Love, Beauty and the Beast, The Love
Fifth Element, Paris is Burning, Pink Narcissus, The Social
Eyes Wide Shut, A Clockwork Orange, Capernaum, Leave No
Neon Demon, The Matrix, Death Becomes Her, The
Shining, Mask of Zorro,
all the Star Wars and many Hitchcocks! Iím forgetting a lot.
... and of course, films your really
I donít like Marvel movies, but to be fair Iíve only seen like three,
so maybe Iím being unfair. At the very least I am not a fan of the
Your/your movie's website, social media,
My Instagram and Twitter handles are scottjramsey, our movieís
Instagram is everybodylovesX and Twitter is letshaveX. We also have a
behind-the-scenes webseries called Blood, Sweat, & Rose Petals that
can be found on our YouTube channel,
And then the film also has its own website as well,
my website is scottjramsey.com.
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
While Lien Do and Kevin De Nicolo were composing the score for the
movie, Kevin and I formed a music act called The Major Arcana and made
several new wave influenced goth pop songs for the soundtrack, with me
as vocalist. We ended up recording a whole album called At
the Devilís Ball that exists on its own separate from the
soundtrack as a complete body of work. At
the Devilís Ball, plus the movieís score called Music
from the Movie X, can both be heard on all music platforms, and
those music videos can be seen on our YouTube channel.
Thanks for the