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An Interview with Vickie Hicks, Writer and Star, and Kevin Hicks, Director and Star of Dead Air

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2021

Vickie Hicks on (re)Search my Trash

Kevin Hicks on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Dead Air - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Kevin: It’s about a man who starts receiving cryptic messages from on old ham radio he found in his deceased mother’s attic, and the messages help him piece together a mystery surrounding a traumatic event that happened to him as a young boy.

 

Vickie: Two lonely people connect over the airwaves of ham radios, and their relationship takes them down dark and unexpected avenues.

 

Now how did the project come into being, what was the initial spark/idea?

 

Kevin: We thought a “haunted radio” - mysterious voices, and all that - would be interesting, and it afforded us the setting to still be able to tell a complete story within the pandemic limitations at the time.

 

Vickie: Kevin came to me and said, “What about a ghost in a radio?” I started on it and the story sort of took over and sent me in a different direction. I really became interested in developing William and Eva, their stories, and the tragic path that intersection took them down.

 

Vickie, what were your sources of inspiration when writing Dead Air?

 

Vickie: I initially thought about using a regular AM/FM radio, but then I thought “What about a ham radio?” When I started researching them, I realized they were very popular in the 1940’s, especially during the war, so that gave me the idea. And, of course, time travel - even through radio waves - was an intriguing idea. Funny note, when I was writing this, an external speaker that sits on my desk started emitting the voice of an actual ham radio operator - true story! I could only hear his side of the conversations he was having, but was able to piece together that he was only about a mile away from me. Don’t know how it happened, but it was weird.

 

Now Dead Air is set in 1946 and 1984 - so what were the challenges of making pretty much a double-period picture?

 

Vickie: There were a lot of challenges. First, making sure the set design was accurate; I culled ebay for actual pieces from the period - even the radios were actually from 1942. Then there were the costumes. They had to reflect the times, and in Eva’s case, we hoped it could pass for a crazy weird lady from the 80s without giving away that she was actually from the 40s. Then in the script, I had to make sure any idioms or slang that post-dated the 40s were not used by Eva, and that she questioned them when they were used by William.

 

Kevin, what can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

Kevin: Since this story was dialog-driven by necessity, it was important that the characters and plot were detailed enough that the weave & warp of the plot itself never became redundant.

 

What were the challenges of bringing Dead Air to the screen from a producer's point of view?

 

Vickie: Because of the pandemic we had to put our original script on the back burner and create something that could be executed with minimal cast and crew. Also, because of the natural concerns of people, we restricted our shooting days, and that created a big challenge to complete our shooting schedule without having to add extra days. It meant shooting a lot of pages each day, and having to come up with creative ways to shoot things.

 

You also both appear in front of the camera in Dead Air - so do talk about your respective characters, and what did you draw upon to bring them to life?

 

Kevin: William is a man who has never fully mourned his deceased wife, because he has had to assume the role of single parent to two school-aged daughters. Through the loss of his mother, he is once again faced with having to come to terms with death. This is part of what opens the door and makes him more receptive to the disembodied messages coming from the ham radio. Having kids and being in a very strong marriage, personally, it wasn’t a stretch at all playing a father who is mourning the loss of his wife.

 

Vickie: Eva is not a very nice person, given her chosen associations, but at the same time she’s really a very sad, lonely woman. She lost the only man who ever cared for her so she picked up his cause as a way to keep the connection she had with him. She’s terrified people will find out, so her initial chosen isolation develops into agoraphobia, and it literally paralyzes her. We all have those times when we feel insecure or lonely, so I tried to draw on those to bring Eva to life.

 

What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Kevin: Casting a non-union indie is always a challenge, but we have a solid network of friends and colleagues available to us as both cast and crew options. In the case of Dr. Jennings, Chris Xaver is not a classic actor, but she has a lot of interpersonal experience - having been a TV newscaster for years, and now a professor and student advisor - which played well into the character of a psychiatrist. We were especially fortunate when it came to the kids - Luca, Maddison & Mackenzie - which are always a challenge to find...especially at this production level.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Kevin: The shoot was a challenge, and actually dictated the type of story we were telling. We had already been in pre-production on a large-scale project when the pandemic broke out. Dead Air being a smaller movie was a direct result of those restrictions. We had to scale back everything - number of locations, size of cast and crew - while still telling a compelling story. As it turned out, we never had more than seven total people on the set at any given time. But the crew members we did have were top shelf, and able to wear several hats to get the job done. All-in-all, it was an enjoyable, uneventful shoot.

 

Vickie: It was actually a very small space we were shooting in (it looks bigger that it was on camera). William’s shop and Eva’s bunker was set in a long narrow room, and we created the two sets in it, building removable walls to give the two cameras more flexibility. And, as Kevin mentioned, the pandemic set up its own restrictions.

 

Now what can you tell us about the collaboration between the both of you, in pre-production, on set, and in post?

 

Kevin: Vickie and I are a great team, and we have worked together on a professional level for most of our marriage. We’re both writers with a strong emphasis on character and story, so we are able to come together nicely when developing ideas. When it comes to execution, we both have different strengths, which makes us a good fit. It’s very rare that we find ourselves stepping on each other creatively.

 

Vickie: We have always worked as a great team. Creatively we challenge each other, and when one gets stuck, the other can jump in with a new idea or a fresh perspective. We support each other as writers, and on set we’re there to continue that support.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Dead Air?

 

Kevin: It’s still pretty early, but we’re pleased with the initial reception. If viewers sit down to watch - understanding that this isn’t a story about a demon jumping out of a radio and chasing a family through their house - I think most will be pleased with the depth of character and the overall strength of both the story and the twists that are revealed. Almost everyone, so far, has been both surprised and satisfied with the ending.

 

Vickie: I think if people understand that this story isn’t about monsters jumping out at you or ghosts floating through the air, they’ll have a satisfying viewing experience. The one thing we’ve heard over and over is that the audience is constantly guessing at the truth, or how it’s going to end, and all of them without exception have been surprised.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Vickie: We are currently in post on a film called The Forever Room which we hope will be released later in 2021.

 

Now Dead Air wasn't your first time working together - so do talk about your previous collaborations!

 

Kevin: Our previous collaborations have spanned five films. We have had the opportunity to work with some phenomenal partners over the years, but Vickie and I have always been at the heart of the story telling. We’re just a great team who can take advantage of our relationship as a couple without any of the obstacles.

 

How did the two of you first meet even (if that's not too personal a question)?

 

Kevin: Back in the early nineties, we both worked for DIC Animation in Los Angeles. We married within a year and ended up leaving California soon after the birth of our son.

 

Vickie: This goofy guy walked into my office and asked a dumb question. But before I knew it I was married to that goofy guy and had two children with him.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

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USA  amazon.com

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Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

Looking for imports ?
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Your shop for all things Thai

Kevin: Our production company Chinimble Lore has both a Facebook page and a website - www.chinimblelore.com

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Kevin: We would just like to thank everyone who had a role in bringing Dead Air to life. Movies are a team effort, from start to finish, and we had a fantastic team on this.

 

Vickie: Dead Air is a slow burn, but sticking with it will reward the viewer with rich, interesting characters and a fascinating plot with very unexpected twists and turns.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Kevin: Thank YOU for the opportunity!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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