Tag Archives: Interview

The Elizabeth Banks Interview

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

pitch perfect 2 elizabeth banksI am unbearably nervous.  My heart is racing, my breathing is barely controlled, and the pen of mine that I am currently fiddling with is basically a blur.  This is not nervousness brought on by excitement and being star-struck – although that may have been a barely noticeable part of it – this was nervousness brought on by anxiety and fear.

About 48 hours earlier, I received a message from the editor of The Hullfire, my university’s student newspaper.  It told me that there had been some actual progress with regards to an interview opportunity that he had teased a few months back and to which I more or less replied at the time, “Get me in there, do whatever it takes!”  The interview was going ahead, it was set for Thursday, and if I wanted it, then the session was mine.  I then didn’t hear anything more until 7pm the next day, where I was finally let in on the details of the thing: the interview was at 3:40PM the following day, I had to attend a 12PM screening before it, and it was down in London.

Against most people’s common sense, and even my own, I spent the next 4 hours making the travel arrangements and nailing down locations and such.  Cos when you have been writing critically about films for five years, seemingly no closer to making it or even being paid for your efforts, and someone metaphorically calls you up to say “Hi, we’d like for you to attend a press event first thing tomorrow in London and you’re going to have to figure out how to get down there on your own”, you damn well make it work.

This was my first journey around London by myself, going to places I didn’t know, to the type of event I had never experienced before.  Hence the anxiety and fear; going on unfamiliar experiences by myself doesn’t usually sit well with me.  Not helping matters was the general surreality of the whole experience – the NBC Universal offices, where the screening took place, are two floors in a building filled with corporate offices that’s incredibly sparsely designed and has TVs that play NBC Universal related trailers on muted loop, like something out of a film, whilst Claridge’s, where the interview took place, is a living parody of what you and I think the incredibly rich live like – and the fact that the other critics/journalists at the event, despite also being university students, seemed very experienced and all seemed to know each other.  As the fresh-faced newbie that nobody knew and didn’t acknowledge the existence of, this caused me to feel exactly as you’d expect.

That’s why I was sat in a waiting room at Claridge’s at 3:35PM, 5 minutes before the roundtable interview was supposed to start, terrified beyond belief.  I mean, I was about to share a room with the director of Pitch Perfect 2, which I had to sign an embargo agreement on before I could go into the screening, and a movie star in her own right.  Why wouldn’t I be terrified?  What if I said something incredibly stupid?  What if I flubbed my questions?  What if my recording didn’t work properly?  What if I fainted, or was incredibly unprofessional, what if she just plain didn’t turn up?  Knowing my luck, any one of those things could have happened and I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised.

We are escorted at 3:40PM into the hotel room next door with a roundtable all set up, take our seats, and wait in incredibly awkward silence.  There are 8 of us, each with our own Dictaphones, lists of questions, degrees of experience, and our own personal relationships with one another – some knew certain people, others knew others, but none of us, least of all I, knew everyone at the table.  So we waited, as the minutes ticked by.  Sometimes someone would make a quiet murmured comment intended to make things less tense but would only cause things to feel even more awkwardly, anxiously terrifying.

Then Elizabeth Banks walks through the door and the room’s energy drastically changes.  Dressed casually, grinning from ear to ear, and not seeming in the slightest bit tired, phased or sick of having to spend yet another 20 minutes fielding questions, she projects this aura of calming control that seemingly affects every one of us.  “You’re all so young,” she observes as she sits down and that combined with her loud emphatic request for questions – simply delivered as “What d’ya wanna know?” – flushes out any trace of fear in the room with genuine laughter.  Somebody uses the age comment as a jumping off point to ask for her thoughts on what about university and college-aged protagonists appeals to audiences, and we are off.

“I think it’s a transitional age.  When you’re younger than 20, you’re aspiring to be 20, and when you’re my age, you go, ‘Oh, it was so nice when I was 20.’”  She answers most every question like that, with that kind of insight and self-awareness and examination, into both herself and the Pitch Perfect series that, as its producer, she has helped shepherd into existence, but in a casual way that keeps the mood from feeling too pressurising, too constricting.   Somebody follows up my question on female empowerment and friendships in the series by asking about the importance of a studio comedy fronted and driven by an almost entirely female cast, which leads into Banks, who proudly admits to being a feminist, noting that, while she didn’t set out to make a feminist movie, “because we made a movie about a group of women, and nobody else makes those movies, we are a feminist statement.”

Pitch Perfect 2 is a very much a film of expansion, from the cast to the sets to the scale to the commitment to and exaggeration of the A Capella world it takes place in, which also bleeds over into Banks’ role within the film.  Whilst she still returns on-screen as co-A Capella commentator and podcaster Gail, Banks found herself in the director’s seat for the first time in a feature film, a surprising rarity with the Hollywood studio system’s frustrating reluctance to hire female directors.  “I was actively looking for a movie to direct, and the stars basically just happened to align,” she admits, noting that due to her production work, her hiring of Jason Moore [the first film’s director], and the studio trusting her, “it was like, ‘yeah, of course I should do it.’”

That kind of determination and desire to try new things likely surprises no-one if they’ve been paying attention to her filmography.  This year alone, in addition to Pitch Perfect 2, she’s co-headlining the crime drama Every Secret Thing, appearing in Magic Mike XXL, co-starring in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, and wrapping up her work in The Hunger Games series with Mockingjay, Part 2.  I ask her if this comes from a desire to push herself, which she mostly refutes but instead simply states: “I don’t want to be bored.  I want stories that interest me.”  That might explain why, when the subject of comedy sequels and a possible third Pitch Perfect comes up, she notes that she and Kay Cannon (the series’ screenwriter) “really strove to do something organic and authentic” with PP2 instead of just repeating themselves and why she’s hesitant to commit the series to a third instalment just yet.  “I don’t know what the journey would be in the next one, we don’t have a plan yet.”

Each of us interviewing Elizabeth take turns in no specific order, mostly managing to link our own questions from questions prior, never accidentally talking over one another, like we’re all linked in together and acting as one cohesive unit despite that lack of familiarity.  It really helps keep me calm during the session, as the fear of failure melts away and worries about being judged fade into the back of my mind.  Banks very much seems to exude that kind of kind, understanding calm, the sense that you could ask her how her day’s been and you won’t get an answer too dissimilar to asking one about the belief that the public are scared of musicals – “The people that write the cheques are scared,” she corrects.  I ask a slightly bumbling question about the film’s frank and honest handling of bisexuality and sexual desires and her response is both funny, sincere and intelligent – “College is a liberal time.  You’re supposed to experiment.”

Eventually, one of her PR guys intrudes to let us know that our time is up.  She says her goodbyes and leaves, we all hit stop on our Dictaphones and start filing out of the room.  The calm from her time in the room is still within me and it doesn’t dissipate until I get halfway to the stairs and decide to check my phone to make sure the audio actually recorded.  Mild panic ensues as I fumble around with my headphones and I skip past the dead air, my mind continually worried that I’ll step out of the shower any second now and find out that the entire experience was actually like Season 9 of Dallas.

But then I hear her voice.  The recording worked and, more importantly to myself at that moment, I had physical evidence that the whole thing had actually happened.  I really did just see Pitch Perfect 2 at an actual critic screening, and I really did just spend 20 minutes in a room with Elizabeth Banks asking her questions like a professional film critic/journalist.  I keep my elation contained until I make it back through the front entrance of Claridge’s, at which point I proceed to cackle like lunatic and swear triumphantly to both myself and the heavens.  The feeling was incomparable.  Not so much because of the experience, but more because of the knowledge that I could, in fact, do this.  I could do this for a living, for real, instead of failing miserably like I was always terrified of happening.

I then head off to meet a friend of mine who lived nearby for a bit before catching a train home.  That feeling does not leave for the rest of the day.

Callum Petch has gotta get out to get compensation.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Interview with Nicky Salapu (Next Goal Wins)

Nicky Salapu holds an unenviable record. He conceded more goals than any other goalie in international football history. Back in 2001 his American Samoa side lost 31-0 to Australia in a World Cup qualifier.

He stuck with the national team though as they looked to improve. Ahead of the DVD release of Next Goal Wins this week, a documentary telling the story of the American Samoan national team, Nicky took time out to chat to us.

ngw 2Steve Norman: What was your initial reaction when you found out that people from the UK wanted to make a documentary about the American Samoan national football team?

Nicky Salapu: I felt blessed and shocked at the same time. I kind of felt ‘why us?’ Why have these guys come over to film us? I was shocked when I went to New Caledonia for the South Pacific Games and I saw these guys, I thought ‘are we in trouble?’ It’s a blessing and I thank them for making American Samoa more known around the world and making this film.

SN: It is an interesting story, especially with American Samoa being, at the time, bottom of FIFA’s world rankings and on the end of the heaviest ever defeat in international football to Australia. You played in that game, how did you feel going into that game? How did you approach that match and how did you feel playing against the best team in your region?

NS: I knew it was going to happen. Back then most of the good players didn’t have a passport and FIFA have this rule that says if you don’t have a passport, you can’t play. I was the only experienced player back then because I was playing for the national team. I thought ‘I don’t know how we’re going to face these guys’, especially guys like Mark Viduka, for God’s sake, who played for Leeds United and Mark Schwarzer, you know. How am I meant to face these people. The only reason I’m playing is to make sure my team don’t get beat 50-0. But I knew what was going to happen, I knew the score would be high. I can’t go back and change those things. Whatever happens, happens. It’s embarrassing. It’s a shame.

SN: How did you deal with things after the game, after losing by that scoreline? It seems, from the documentary, that the result affected you a lot.

NS: Yeah, I carried that around with me for a long time, for 13 years. It’s something that I never forget. After the game we walked into the locker room, I bowed down my head and I cried a little bit. I felt very embarrassed and like I don’t want to play soccer anymore. But I also felt that I am a soccer player and I’m not the kind of guy to just give up on it. I felt like I wanted to put my team and my country in a different perspective and get them out of the embarrassment.

SN: Thomas Rongen had experience of playing at Ajax and in the USA with the likes of George Best and Johan Cruyff and had coached the USA youth sides, what did he bring to the American Samoa set up?

NS: The experience and knowledge we never had before. The professionalism we never had before. He brought and installed a commitment that some of the kids don’t have. He said that if you don’t commit yourself fully to the team, we will cut you off, you know. This made a lot of people think ‘oh, this guy is serious’. Thomas was more professional and had a lot of passion for soccer. We have to thank him for bringing his experience and the way he motivated a lot of the kids and make them want to keep playing. His knowledge, experience and professionalism helped us a lot.

SN: At the time Thomas came in as coach, you were living in America. How did he convince you to return to the national team?

NS: [Laughs] good question. He asked me if I wanted to remove the embarrassment of that game, the 31-0 to Australia. He said this was a good moment, that he was a professional coach, that we had good players and some from here in the States [Rongen called up two players based in the USA with American Samoan heritage]. He kept telling me all these things. I was working hard for my family, they really needed me. I didn’t feel like going. When he told me all these things – and telling me he wanted to put the embarrassment of the 31-0 to the side and become winners – he said that this was the best squad with the best players and the best coach. I was like, ‘ok, this will be the best moment to go back and come out of the embarrassment.’ I’m glad he called me and thankful to him for letting me come back to play.

SN: Under Thomas, the team achieved its first ever victory, against Tonga, how did that feel? Especially considering your journey with the team from the loss to Australia to the first ever win.

NS: Oh, it felt incredible. Amazing. I thought I was dreaming. Is this happening? Did we win a game? At the time I felt like we were never going to win but I believed in my team, and the management and the support from our country that came over to support us. I believed we had something and that we would accomplish something. It felt exciting. It was the best thing that ever happened to me in football.  I even forgot that the 31-0 ever existed. It was a joyful moment. I have the movie at home. I watched it last night with my son and my wife and every time I see that part where we won the game I still cry no matter what. I still cry. It means a lot to me and I cannot thank enough Thomas, the coaches and my team-mates for helping that happen.ngw

SN: One of the most uplifting and engaging things about the film was the sense of togetherness between the squad and players and inclusion of the people who may not have come from American Samoa but were of American Samoan descent, or and the people from different backgrounds on the island. Did this help the team?

NS: It helped us a lot. With the culture and religion of the island it makes us come together as a team as we have a respectful way of living. It makes us respect other players and our management. We always show respect everywhere we go. Down in the islands it’s like almost every family is related and that is why we call each other brothers and sisters because we are close and it helps us a lot. Being spiritual was the best thing for our team. Lots of people say that it has nothing to do with God but if you believe in God and believe in football, things happen.

SN: Are you still involved with the team?

NS: Yeah, I’m still connected with Larry [one of the coaches] and I practice with his youth soccer team and I still maintain myself because most of the people say they want me to come back and play. I play six times a week here in Seattle, although I don’t actually play that much in goal. I’m actually pretty decent on the field, in midfield. I sometimes play sweeper as I am taller than most of the opponents. I play goalkeeper when it’s a hard game to make sure we secure our rank as I play in a tough level. At the moment we are top of the league and every time we play a top team I go in goal.

SN: What next for American Samoa?

NS: In June we will start training and finding some teams to play against. We will have a camp in Hawaii and the first match in July with the World Cup Qualifiers starting in November.

SN: What did you think of the movie, Next Goal Wins?

NS: What I say at the end of the movie is true; I still want to go back and play against Australia. I really want to. If it doesn’t happen to me, my son loves football and he always tells me he wants to play Australia if I don’t. I hope the movie motivates the kids to play football. I hope the defeat to Samoa doesn’t put them off and they get the motivation to play football. I love football, it’s my world. I can’t live without it.

SN: You’re not the only one.

NS: My wife gets mad at me and says when will you stop playing football? And I say ‘never, I will surely play until I die’. My son keeps telling me he will one day play for the American Samoa national team. Hopefully. I want to thank Steve, Mike and Christian for coming down to make this movie.

Next Goal Wins is out on DVD now. You can find out more information about this extraordinary documentary on their website and find all of our coverage (including interviews, podcasts and reviews) here.

Interview with Jessica Cameron and Ryan Kiser (Truth or Dare)

Following his review of the sickest film shown at this year’s Film4 FrightFest, Truth or Dare, Mike Shawcross got chatting with its director, co-writer and star, Jessica Cameron, and lead actor Ryan Kiser.

Mike Shawcross: Truth or Dare sounds like an inventive twist on a traditional but much loved formula, what is it that inspired you to tell this very dark story or make this movie?

Jessica Cameron: Well originally when I was a child and played a game of ‘truth or dare’ with my friends, I always envisioned that they would ask me to do something horrible like stab myself in the leg with a pencil. And at the time before the internet I would have to like research in books and ask librarians; who were very concerned really. If I was to stab myself in the leg with a pencil, where should I stab myself to cause the least amount of damage? So I always had this in my mind that the truth or dare games as a child never went that dark, it was always very much “call up this boy and say you like him”. You know, trivial things like that. But in my mind, I just always went to this really dark place even when I was 6 or 7. And when I grew up, I would see many a truth or dare film, or films which would try a similar concept, and none of them really went as dark as I went when I was a child, so they always felt lacklustre. And then upon moving to Hollywood I came across this like stereotypical sort of male unemployed actor and I was like, “here’s a guy I fear more than anything because he’s walking on this ledge and he’s so easily tipped off this ledge of insanity”. Then I was talking with my producer and co-writer Jonathon Higgins and the idea emerged; that concept of the truth or dare scheme happened, and I happened to know a gentleman by the name of Ryan Kiser who I felt was perfect.

DSCF8632MS: Who is here today as well.

Ryan Kiser: Yes indeed I am.

JC: And I was like, and now not only do we have the perfect role and the perfect character but I know the perfect guy to bring it to life. And then we kind of just let the story organically go where it was supposed to be. We knew the characters we wanted in it and then we sort of – as we wrote the script – we sort of went to where it organically felt right to go. We didn’t have any reservations, nothing was off the table, nothing was “you can’t go here”. We sort of wanted it to go where it went.

MS: So basically you left it open and as each scene played out you took it somewhere else?

JC: Completely.

MS: Ryan, as an actor, did you feel comfortable doing that?

RK: Yeah, totally. It was very organic, on-the-day type of stuff. A lot of it was in the script but, yeah, I felt really.. I mean [starts laughing] as comfortable as you could feel doing some of the stuff I was doing. But no, it was a great experience for me shooting it for sure. Something I will never forget.

MS: It seems like you have a genuine affection for the b-movie horror genre and it comes across strongly in your performance in previous films. What is it exactly that you love about the genre?

JC: You know what, well the horror genre and b-movies in specific, I really loved the fact that nothing is off the table – or at least shouldn’t be. When you are making a movie that’s outside the studio system, it really does give you a free sensibility. If you are smart, in my opinion. Where you can kind of do whatever you want because you don’t have a studio head, or multiple studio heads, telling you what you cannot do. And I really like the freedom as an actor; I’ve enjoyed the freedom for many years. As a director, I like the freedom to be able to do what is right for the character, what’s right for the story and what’s right for the role. As a horror fan, that’s what I want to see. I’ve been really let down in the last, really, ten years by studio horror films because I feel like they are all playing it safe. They’re not doing what they should, they’re not going where they naturally should progress to, but they are playing it safe by doing something that will be not-rejected by the mainstream community and as a horror fan that hurts my heart because I feel like I’m being ignored and the mainstream community who doesn’t embrace the horror genre is being catered to. I don’t think that’s fair. You know, I really want as a filmmaker– the reason why I wanted to make films, is because I feel there is a horror community that’s incredibly loyal, brilliant and beautiful and wonderful and they are not getting what they want; and I’m part of it. So I want to make movies that I want to watch, that I want to see, that will become like that movie I watched 30 years from now. So much of the films you go and see in the cinema today, I forget about right after I see them. I certainly won’t remember them five years from now. I definitely won’t remember them ten years from now. They’re generic, they’re watered down and they are safe. That’s not what I care about as a horror fan and it’s not what I stand for as a horror filmmaker.

MS: Do you think that it’s so monetary driven now, Hollywood, that that is the problem; that they need to be able to make the money?

JC: I think that they are focussing on the wrong things. Don’t get me wrong, I could care less about money.

MS: But they big studios do though, don’t they?

JC: They do.

RK: Yeah, they really do.

JC: Yes but bless them, I feel it’s hurting them. You look at the actual gross revenue that they are generating, I feel like they would be doing larger numbers if they would just fucking say “fuck It” and throw caution to the wind. They’re not. They’re playing it safe because it’s what they’ve always done. I feel they are wrong. I feel the horror fans will come out for something that’s not safe, that’s not perfect, that might be flawed but is at least trying to go where the film should be and where films haven’t gone before. And that is what I think is so brilliant about the independent community right now, is that you are seeing more and more people step up and standout and say “fuck it, this is right for the storyline, and this is where we are going”. And I, as a horror filmmaker, that’s the reason why I want to make movies. Don’t get me wrong, here’s the situation; honestly, if the studios or anybody started saying “fuck it we are going to do this right and we are going to fulfil the fans, the horror fans, as they want to be fulfilled and give them what they want”, I would be out of work. There’s nothing left for me to do. You know I’m an actor first and foremost. I’m a filmmaker honestly by force, simply because people are not doing what I want to see. And I’m the type of girl that if you don’t give me what I want, I will do it myself. I don’t fucking need you. I will make it work.

MS: As for the directional skills you need, did you just go for it, decide ‘this is what I need’, and see how you got on and learn from the experience of Truth or Dare?

JC: You know, as an actress, I’ve spent many years on sets. And sets that have been really wonderful experiences as well as sets that have not, where things have gone horribly awry. And I always like to sit back and watch and take an objective opinion on ‘did this work or not work’. So that’s really how I learnt. I would just watch and saw what was working and what wasn’t. As far as directing my own movie now that’s my approach and how I approach them anyways. I also try to hire the most talented people I can with the budget that I have. You know the DP has done X amount of films and he’s brilliant and so he’s going to make me look better. I intentionally cast Truth or Dare as I did with people who I know are phenomenal and that wasn’t a fluke. I knew they would rock the role, I knew they would be amazing, I knew they wouldn’t need as much guidance as someone who had never done this before, I knew they could handle the material. And who knew that I could be sitting here, a year and a half after filming the movie and raving about them. So I kind of stacked the deck in my favour, which I think is really smart, and that’s what they do at the studio levels. You know they hire people who are known entities, I just did it in the independent genre community.

MS: And festivals like this are crucial to the independent b-movie industry?

JC: Oh, absolutely. For a lot of amazing horror fans, this is the only chance they will get to see the film with an audience in a theatre, which is tragic in some ways but also makes them so crucial. And I think it’s wonderful coming out to London and seeing the community that has really encouraged this. It’s phenomenal to actually witness it in person. They’ve come out from all over the UK just to attend this festival, because they know that a lot of these movies that they are seeing, they’ll only get to see in this environment one time and they want to cherish that experience. It’s fantastic. And the really other great thing is that the film festival circuit does cater to us and they do an excellent job of making sure we are getting everything we could want or need. They are really an assist to us filmmakers and to the independent film community. How kind the festivals have been to me and my movie will never be forgotten. Especially FrightFest. FrightFest has gone out of their way to make me feel at home, at ease and worthy of playing my movie at such a prestigious festival, which is phenomenal.

MS: And the fans who you have met this weekend?

JC: They are [laughs], the fans here at FrightFest are in my opinion the best in the world.

MS: And you’ve been to a lot of festivals!

JC: Yes, I’ve been to a lot of festivals. They are phenomenal. Here’s the thing, they are just so pure, they are so genuine. I feel like everybody wants my movie to be amazing and they just want to watch it. The amount of fans will have printed off their own promotional materials for me to sign, it blows my mind. In America they usually wait for you to give them something to sign. Here they are printing them off on their own and a lot of times better than the stuff that I have.

RK: Oh yeah.

JC: Could you print me off 10 of those that would be great, they’re so impressive. And they are genuine horror fans. They are not just here to see my movie, they have been here all weekend and we can talk on the same level about this film that we saw that we loved. I’ve been talking a lot about The Guest which I really enjoyed, the opening night movie at FrightFest. I’ve been able to carry on conversations about the movie with people who are coming to see my movie because they are in that theatre with me while I enjoyed these films that I have nothing to do with. You know that’s what you get here, which is just so phenomenal, to actually get to speak to these people and see them face to face. I feel like they’re the people that are tweeting at me and facebooking me online, and I get to meet them, which is really enjoyable.

DSCF8670 (2)

MS: Talking of online, you embrace social media to promote your films, do you think it’s a massive promotional tool now?

JC: I think social media is the way of the future. I think it’s the way of the future for every industry and I think the film making world is slower to the uptake than most. I think that it is just now a minimum requirement for every actor, actress as well as film to have active social media pages and to be really engaged in their audience. As an independent film maker, to me, that’s what I have as an asset. To me, I can actually have the same reach that larger films that have much bigger budgets do. Simply because I can reach them directly. I don’t need to hire a PR firm and get some mainstream press. So it’s really levelled the playing fields for those of us that don’t have millions of dollars for PR. If I am making the content that the fans are wanting to see then they will find it.

MS: Ryan, are you a big fan of social media?

RK: Yeah, definitely. I’m super active. Not quite as active as Jessica is.

JC: Yeah you should try working on that.

RK: [Laughs] No, I’m actually on top of it. I’m pretty comfortable whoring myself out.

MS: The thing is, is it actually whoring yourself out?

RK: No, it’s not really.

JC: I think it was whoring yourself out 3 years ago when you were ahead of the curve. Now it’s become an expectation. Furthermore in L.A. there is now a project that will cast you based on your social media following.

RK: Yes, I do say that in jest because it is fun and I like to interact with people who are doing and watching the same things I am. Watching my stuff, watching Jess’s stuff. And definitely social media is a great way to build any business including in the film industry.

JC: But also it’s the only way we can interact with the fans directly when we can’t physically be here.

MS: And this is it. I mean, and obviously, if you interact with the fans, the fans then think ‘yes Jessica is doing this’, ‘Ryan is doing this’, and ‘I’m going to go and see your films’. When you get people that just ignore you, you think ‘what is the point of being on Twitter if that’s their attitude?’

RK: Yeah.

JC: But also, furthermore they guide my filmmaking choices. I don’t want to make a movie unless the fans are going to be behind it. That’s where I am at in my career, I need the fans and I really want to give back to the horror community that’s been so great to me. So should I make a movie that was a miss, I want to know. And the fans, not the people paying me the cheques, are the ones who will be honest with me and tell me if something is great or something is not.

MS: You need negative and positive, you just can’t feed off the positive. You need the negative to improve yourself as a filmmaker and an actress.

JC: I just realised I’ll probably get a billion negative tweets now! [Laughs] Please don’t harass me with negative tweets, I’m sorry!

MS: Do you see yourself as a modern day scream queen?

JC: I absolutely fucking do! We are now in the age of the new scream queen and I believe we haven’t seen a resurgence of the scream queen since the 80’s when she kind of died a mysterious, random, very fast death. In my opinion, from what I know about the women who were working then, they went off and got married and popped their babies and left the genre, which is tragic to me. I’m like, you can still do that and still work within the genre, it’s not an either/or situation. But I think this is a first time in my time as a horror film fan over the last fifteen years who’s really seen a resurgence of the scream queen. And I think it’s really fantastic, you know. We are able to see these wonderful amazing women kicking ass on screen. And furthermore I think we are getting these filmmakers; Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, the Soska sisters, Ricky Bates, that are writing amazing roles for women. Let’s put women who fucking love the genre in those roles that are written perfectly for them and really rock it.

MS: Talking of the Soska Twins, American Mary was a massive hit at FrightFest when it played. Do you think women directing horror films is the way to go? Do women have less morals than men?

JC: Here’s the thing, do we have less morals? That’s debatable. I have a lot of morals, I just don’t give a fuck what people think. It’s a film. Just because I feel strongly, doesn’t mean my characters in the film feel the same way. There’s a character in my movie that’s a paedophile and I do not support paedophilia, obviously. But it’s right for the character, so we fucking made him a really hardcore paedophile. By doing that I’m not encouraging it, or that ‘it’s awesome go do it’. I am simply saying that’s right for the character and was right for the story. For me, I don’t even know if it’s a male versus a female thing. I grew up in an environment where I was told always be me and that in being me people are going to love me or people are going to hate me, and that’s not my problem. The only thing I have to worry about is to be me. So every day when I wake up, that’s kind of my process. And I do! You can google it. You can buy an “I Am Jessica Cameron” tee shirt. My favourite is you can also buy a “Who is Jessica Cameron” tee shirt which is ironic because why are you wearing a tee shirt which says that if you don’t know who I am?

RK: I want one!

JC: I just try to be me. If you love me, that’s great. If you hate me, then you are entitled to your own opinion, good luck, God bless. All of the above. As far as if women can go places men can’t? I don’t know. We have the Soska Sisters who are kind of being held as the echelon of what a female film maker should be, with very good reason. They are brilliant, they are beautiful, they love what they do and they are probably the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life. Should they be held up with regard to ‘this is what a female film maker should be’, I don’t know. I think that’s what all film makers should be; male, female, I don’t care. If you are not as impassioned as the Soska’s are about your movie then what the fuck are you doing. It’s great that we have them in the genre, I think it’s wonderful they are paving the way. I would really like to see the men step up to the plate that they’re setting and say we can be as impassioned and make as interesting films as they are. I’ve yet to see it, but I am hopeful. I think there are more women who are not getting what they want to see and that is why they are stepping up to the plate. I really can’t wait to see what the Soska’s do next. They always surprise me. I’m actually friends with them and they always surprise me. Every single time I spend time with them they blow my mind and that’s just who they are. I want to see more of that, whether you have breasts or a penis I don’t care. That brilliance, that passion, that drive. That to me is what really rises the bar of film making.DSCF8665

MS: Truth or Dare, which plays tomorrow at Frightfest….

JC: Oh, yes! I’m so excited!

MS: Written, Directed and starring yourself….

JC: Co-written, to be fair.

MS: Co-written, sorry. What was the overall experience like? I mean, you are dealing with the whole package there.

JC: It was the right project to do ‘all of the above’ on because when you direct a movie, you live with it a lot longer than you do as an actor. So I was really glad I didn’t do it prior to this movie. It was a lot more stressful and more time consuming than I ever could have hoped or I could ever have dreamed. It was really worth it, I could not imagine it any other way. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was definitely very stressful. I slept one or three hours a night at most, we shot nine days over eleven, so that in another way is stressful and I cast my crew who were very talented and very much into it which was fantastic. I always said I would never do it again but I’m getting ready for my next one.

MS: Ryan, how was it working on Truth or Dare?

RK: It was great, it was really intense and I didn’t know what was going to happen until I turned up. It was funny, I was driving down there, we shot out in the desert, and I rode down with one of my co-stars Brandon Van Vliet, and one of our PA’s. And Brandon’s like “so what are you going to do?” and I’m like “I don’t know” [starts laughing] – which is scary, or not, but a lot of it just was–

JC: I’m just hearing this!

RK: [laughs] I had a good idea from what Jess and I had talked about and what we want the character to do, but I didn’t really know what was going to happen until it happened.

JC: We realised on or after the fact, that most days while filming we had to shoot ten or twelve pages, it would be like 80% of Ryan monologuing with various specific actions. We’re like “he has to turn on the camera, take out the voice recorder, turn on the camera, take out the gun”. You feel like the actions, and the dialogue.. and obviously I co-wrote the script, I should have been more aware of how much monologuing I had Ryan do.

RK: It was great though.

JC: It wasn’t until we got the lines every day, I would have seventeen lines and Ryan was like page after page after page…

RK: But it was good because I wasn’t really acting, I was just doing exactly what was right in front of me at that moment. Because I couldn’t think about the whole element; I couldn’t think about the whole of it because it was overwhelming actually. But that’s the way I like to work. I like a lot of pressure.

MS: And Jessica, what’s in the future for you?

JC: Let’s see, in my immediate future we are getting ready to make my next directorial effort which is Mania, a fucked up lesbian love story. Because I don’t like actors and I’m not really a fan of casting, I cast Heather Dorff and Devanny Pinn in the lead roles [laughs]. They are also perfect for the roles. I could take auditions from anyone, but nobody is going to nail it like these girls are. There has been a little bit of a backlash and people are like ‘why are you casting the same girls’? And I’m like ‘because they are fucking phenomenal’. If you saw my movie, you would not question why I would want to work with them again. They can do amazing performances in a blink of an eye. I don’t have to spend time trying to get a performance out of them. So we are going to shoot that and we are going to shoot it cross-country and really try to involve the fans as much as possible. I’m trying to think of more things to do to involve the fans because I feel like right now that’s the only thing that is missing. We have social media and such so they can interact with us but how do we get them more involved in the film? So if you can think of a solution to that, let me know, I’m open to hear it. I just wrapped shooting Save Yourself in Canada, which is a wonderful film in which I starred with Tristan Risk from American Mary, directed by Ryan M. Andrews, so that’s in post-production. Utero is in post-production. I shot another Christmas slasher film, which of course I love, that’s in post-production. And then we are getting ready to figure out what we are going to do for 2015 and then also settling distribution for Truth or Dare. So it’s been a busy year.

MS: Can I ask you about the distribution and funding? Do you get the film made, then worry about the funding, or do you need the funding first?

JC: You have to think about the funding to get the film made, right, because you have to pay people. I get people to work for not much, but I still have to pay them something more often than not. And I still have to feed them. And no matter, try as I might, I can’t get grocery stores to give me groceries for free. So you have to think about the funding first, and it’s a trick in and of itself and that itself alone is a skill. Luckily for us we are at the point now where we have so many people who are in our corner, but the trick is how do we balance the funding versus the fan attraction. So for Mania, you can go to www.killtheproductionassistant.com and see our interesting crowd funding, where they will put a pin your state, so we can travel to the states with the most amount of pins in them. The reason why we are doing it that way – while we do have interest from people that would give us money, however, the important thing about taking the money from someone else is they don’t want us to shoot it cross-country, involving the fans. They want to shoot it in the state of California because it’s easier and cheaper. So the hardest part is balancing the fan attraction with the movie we want to make and bringing everybody on board.

MS: And distribution, getting your films out there, is that another hurdle?

JC: It’s definitely a hurdle. I’m really trying to specifically work only with companies that see the value in what we do and people who are very heavily into social media. That’s the direction we are going for. I’m much more focused on building relationships between people. I don’t want a distribution company, no matter how great it is, to take Truth and Dare and then devalue it. Ideally I want to get a relationship with a company that will do something amazing with Truth or Dare and support everything I do. I would love to have a company that I felt strongly about that would take on Truth or Dare and then continue with as well.

MS: And Ryan, the future for you?

RK: I just want to keep on working on these films. Recently I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of complex and really dark roles. I don’t play the boyfriend – rarely. I get the roles actors like to get, so I hope to continue doing that. I’ve got a couple of things on deck that I’ll be working on late this year and early next year, that are kind of in the same vein. So I feel lucky for that.

MS: And House of Manson?

RK: House of Manson, yes. We’re super excited – the cast and crew – we are all really excited to see our own movie, because it felt really good when we actually shot it and from the clips that I’ve been seeing here and there, that my Director Brandon [Slagle] is so excited about that he has been sharing them with me on occasions. It looks good. It should be coming out towards the end of 2014 here, maybe early 2015. Maybe hitting a short festival run and some sort of distribution after that.

MS: Brilliant. Well, that’s it. Thank you very much.

JC: Thank you darling so very much.

RK: Thank you.

JC: I can’t wait to see you at the screening.

MS: Truth or Dare should play exceptionally well at FrightFest.

JC: I hope so. I’m hoping someone will vomit in the vomit bag. We’ve had people pass out, we’ve had people run out, we’ve had people vomit but they always made it to the toilet. Nobody vomited in the actual bag! That’s what I made them for!

RK: I’d love to see that. Use the bag if you are going to vomit! Don’t hurt yourself, use the bag!

MS: People just want them as souvenirs.

JC: If you vomit in the vomit bag, I will send you another one. We will mail you a fresh one. No, actually, I’ll mail you 5 so you have extra, so when you watch it on DVD, you don’t ever destroy your final one.

Truth or Dare played to UK audiences at the Film4 FrightFest 2014 in Discovery screen one. Check out the red band trailer above or read what Failed Critics thought of the film here, including our full review.

Check out the House of Manson trailer here.

Interview with Steve Jamison (Next Goal Wins)

Following his review of the exciting new documentary on the American Samoa national football team, Next Goal Wins, Steve got chatting to one of the co-directors, Steve Jamison:

NGW3Steve Norman: First off thank you for inviting us to see Next Goal Wins and for doing the interview for both Born Offside and Failed Critics.

Steve Jamison: No problem, thank you for your interest and your support of the movie. I’m very happy to talk about it, it’s been an amazing experience.

SN: What made you want to make a documentary about the American Samoan national team?

SJ: It’s a really good question. Our inspiration really came from two sources. First of all me and my co-director Mike (Brett) have been working in the commercial space for a few years now and for four or five years have made a lot of sports related brand films for some big sports brands and we were looking for a purer form of story I suppose.

We had been making these short brand films of like a minute, a couple of minutes or half a minute and we really wanted to dig a little deeper and tell more engaging, character driven story. What we really wanted to do was capture the purest form of the game that we love.

Mike and I are long time friends and actually met playing football back in university so we really wanted to capture the purest form of this sport that brought him and me together.

We met with Kristian Brodie who works for Agile Films and he said how about American Samoa? They were defeated 31-0 in 2001 by Australia and he was pretty sure at the time they were bottom of FIFA’s world rankings.

Of course Mike and I were aware of the 31-0 defeat, it is something that has gone down in football folklore so it seemed like a great place to start if you wanted to explore the purest form of football. The best place to start would be with a team that still come out for the second half if they are 15 or 16-0 down.

I think, at the time we started filming with them, their best result was a 4-0 defeat, which was a kind of benchmark for them.

So that was our inspiration, football is an amazing game with the power to bring people together. I know that sounds very cliché but it’s true. This film has led me to meet so many people and it all stems from this sport.

So out we went to American Samoa to see if we could find out what kept this team playing in the face of almost certain defeat.

SN: How difficult was it to get the ball rolling and get out to American Samoa? And how helpful were their football association? I read that previously that they were wary of people giving them coverage because they thought people were coming to poke fun of the fact they lost 31-0 and were bottom of the world rankings.

SJ: You’re absolutely right, in the first few minutes of the film we have a montage of all the newspaper headlines that followed that famous defeat. Some of the headlines are really quite cruel and there was a lot written in 2001 that was mickey taking.

The football association of American Samoa had endured many an enquiry from many a film-maker or journalist who were quite keen to come and tell a funny story. So you’re right. It was quite difficult. In fact just to get in touch with them is quite difficult because the time difference is about 13 hours and they’re not big users of email so to get through to them on their landline took a few weeks.

Once we were in contact it took a few weeks to earn their trust and convincing them we weren’t interested in telling the story that had been told before and we weren’t interested in ridiculing them for past defeats or the negative headlines and in fact we wanted to celebrate the fact that these guys should be held as example of true sporting heroes because they go out there and play for the love of the game.

They are not playing for a win or a big money contract or sponsorship, they’re just playing for the love of it.

I think once we convinced them of that fact they were happy for us to head out there and start filming with them. Then we had to work out how to get 300 kilos of filming equipment 10,000 miles to the middle of the Pacific, which was a 52 hour trip door to door.

The funny thing is I don’t think they believed that we would actually show up because they agreed to pick us up from the airport but they never showed up. I think they thought we said we would come but never actually would. When we did start filming with them we put out cameras down and went and had a kick a bout. As I said before football has this power to bring people together. It’s such a cliché to say it’s a universal language but it genuinely is.

SN: It’s an interesting contrast with the World Cup coming up where we will see the best of the best in football. This documentary is coming out just prior to that. With respect to American Samoa and the team this is very much the opposite end of football. It’s quite interesting to see what teams go through at the other end of the game.

SJ: Exactly. First things first, in every World Cup I can remember, and I suppose the first one I can remember was in 1986, my favourite moments were never when the star player has done something incredible. It has always been when a small nation or developing country has staged an upset and I think and there is something about that sport that gets people drawn in by that.

Whether it’s Roger Milla for Cameroon in 1990 or four years ago in South Africa when South Africa took the lead in the opening fixture they’re really the things that captivate an international audience. It’s the little guys, the underdog story, that people like to get behind and I think there’s a little bit of that in our documentary.

When we went out there to start filming it was not long after the last World Cup. The English game had suffered a few little dents with the behaviour of some players, clubs or managers catching the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I don’t need to go into those specific cases now but the sport had been a little bit dented, or its reputation had, and that frustrated us. I don’t want to make it sound more grand than it was but we kind of wanted to rescue the reputation of soccer in our own minds and prove that these few isolated incidents weren’t representative of the sport as a whole.

That’s why we went to American Samoa, football is so pure there you can’t help but fall back in love with the game.

SN: At the start of the documentary Thomas Rongen, the Dutch coach, was not involved with the team. Did you know of his impending arrival before you started filming?

SJ: Absolutely not, we weren’t aware of it at all. When we first went out there we went to film with the local teams and local coaches and we filmed there for almost six weeks and then we came back to the UK.

It was only then after the poor initial results in the South Pacific Games that the CEO decided to ask the US Soccer Federation for some help but we had no idea if it would happen and we were quite worried that Thomas’s arrival might mean the emphasis of this film might shift.

He came in from the MLS, the highest level of soccer in the United States and he might actually turn round and say we can’t film his training sessions because they need to concentrate or they need less distractions.

Far from thinking that this guy might be the making of our film, we were worried that he might break our film but in the end it very much played into our favour in terms of the overall narrative because Thomas arrived and was another amazing character to add to the story and he goes on an amazing journey.

I think Thomas, by his own admission, arrived there and had some preconceived ideas and working with the guys on the island really softened his approach. He builds this relationship with the team where they kind of soften him up but he really toughens them up.

It was quite an amazing thing to witness. Some of those scenes, to witness first hand from behind the camera was pretty amazing and I don’t think I’ll experience anything like that again.

SN: Before Thomas arrived the players all seemed really committed and really dedicated but lacking professionalism which is what he appeared to bring to the team.

SJ: When Thomas arrived he took one look at the squad and said ‘I can’t make you technically any better.’ Tactically his work was cut out because he didn’t have long to make any big changes to the way that the team is organised. He tried to make them a little more organised but a lot fitter. In three weeks he worked them really hard and improved their fitness.

SN: How much did the 31-0 loss to Australia affect not just the players but the country and its mentality towards football? Nicky (the goalkeeper from the 31-0 loss) seemed really affected by the result.

SJ: Nicky has been carrying that defeat around with him, and the scars from that defeat, for over 10 years. It really did play on his mind. I mean in the film Thomas jokes that Nicky plays on his XBOX against Australia, leaves the Australia controller on the sofa and just plays against the computer to try and exorcise himself of those demons.

That was absolutely true. Nicky said exactly the same thing to us. He really suffered from that defeat and the same was true on the island. There weren’t many players left from that day. Ace, the coach was around on that day and Larry was involved as well but the rest of the team didn’t really wear the scars of that day.

American Samoa has trouble getting a competitive team on the field. For a start you can’t naturalise to America Samoa because they have US passports. They have an immigrant population with talented footballers, either from Samoa, or Fiji or even some Koreans who have all ended up there because of the fishing industry but none can naturalise and play for the national team.

Also soccer is perhaps the fifth sport on the island. It comes way after American Football, rugby, basketball, baseball and even a form of cricket they play so soccer is not the most popular sport.

Then when you reach 18 or 19 and graduate from high school there aren’t many jobs there so they join the US military or try to find further education or employment in the US. So if you look at the age group of 18-25, the age group most other national teams would be made up of, there really is slim pickings.

I think what their FA is trying to do now, and I’d love to think the film could help with this, is try to get football played at a grassroots level from around 5 years old and make it a more popular sport there and hopefully that will encourage some of the guys leaving the island to come back and represent their country and all take pride in it.

When you’re bottom of FIFA’s world rankings it’s hard to get people to come and engage with the sport so hopefully that won’t be the case in the future.

SN: Finally, have you planned in the future to go back and revisit the team and some of the people from the film?

SJ: Yea, 100%. Mike and I, and Kristian, and everyone involved, weren’t just in this for just one film. We’re really in it for the long haul and we’d love to find ways we can help develop soccer on the island.

Soon after the upcoming World Cup American Samoa have to start qualifying for the next one (Russia 2018). Not far into 2015 they begin their qualification process. Hopefully by then people will be more aware of the team and we can find ways of supporting and developing the game on the island.

We’d like to make American Samoa everyone’s second favourite team. The response here in America to the film was electrifying and if we can direct some of that positive energy towards the next qualification campaign then who knows, maybe American Samoa can go beyond that first stage of qualification.

NEXT GOAL WINS is out on 7 May (nationwide previews) and 9 May (select cinemas)



GFF13: Interview with Laura Colella (Breakfast with Curtis)

Saturday sees the UK Première of Breakfast with Curtis, the latest film from writer/director Laura Colella. It’s a wonderful micro-budget film made in Laura’s house, and starring her friends and neighbours.

Breakfast with Curtis tableFive years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

We spoke to Laura ahead of the festival.

Firstly, how did the idea for making Breakfast with Curtis come about?

Before making BREAKFAST WITH CURTIS, I had been struggling to get a larger-budgeted project off the ground. It was to be my third feature, and I thought it was normal to expect my films to keep growing in terms of the size of production. The trend in the industry was of course going in the opposite direction. After a few years, I was dying to just make a movie, and returned to my roots as a hands-on filmmaker who likes to write, direct, shoot, edit, etc. I looked around at the crazy characters and great locations in my immediate environment and decided to formulate a story based on them.

There are some very strong acting performances in this film, and I think viewers will be surprised to find that you cast your non-actor neighbours in leading roles. Did it work so well because the actors are playing versions of themselves or because of the writing/filming process you used? Or were you just very lucky to be living among some great undiscovered thespians?

I think all of those answers are true. I wrote for my actors, and we had shoots with tiny crews and minimal production that were relatively low-stress and comfortable for them. I did a lot of takes, and listened and worked for the performances that I knew were right and workable. A lot of the performances came together in the editing room, which I think is usually true with experienced actors as well. The reality is that many professional movie actors, at least in the United States, are not necessarily highly trained, so I don’t see a big division between actors and non-actors. Casting to type and innate qualities often brings invaluable richness if that person can be directed well.

One thing that struck me as I watched this film is that there isn’t a traditional antagonist, or even much conflict beyond the initial incident that leads to the rift between the neighbours. In fact, it’s one of the few films I’ve seen where I’d like to grab a drink with all of the characters. Is this something you consciously aimed for when writing the script?

Many people who’ve seen the film have said they’d like to come live with us or have a drink with us, and that feels great, because I was really trying to capture the spirit of fun around here. I do try to avoid formulaic conflict in my writing. Although we’re trained to expect it, I think more interesting and complex things happen when that expectation is not met. Purely plot-driven and predictable work doesn’t interest me. I think my stories are more theme-driven, and I like to incorporate humor and detail as much as possible.

There are a number of obvious restrictions with low-budget film-making. How do you turn those restrictions in opportunities? Is it simply a matter of taking advantage of serendipity? (such as being able to use Jonah’s real-life videos of Theo, or the wonderful blanket of snow that allows for some beautiful shots in the film)

Turning restrictions into opportunities is a great way to make micro-budget movies. We used a relatively inexpensive camera (a Canon 5D Mark II) that had certain limitations, for example, but you can make amazing images with it that look gorgeous even projected on a giant screen. Jonah and Theo’s videos were one of the initial inspirations for the project. There were so many examples of serendipitous good fortune throughout the making of it, ranging from the weather and the way things grew in the garden that year, to the generous participation of people who came on board to help us through post, such as my fantastic executive producer and post guru Mike Jackman.

What do you have planned for your next project? Would you like to work with your neighbours again at some point in the future?

I’d love to work with them again, and there have been a lot of jokes about sequels. I’m still hoping to get the larger-budgeted project I mentioned off the ground, and have another script I’m currently working on.

Finally, we’ll be recording a special edition of our podcast from the festival and celebrating Scottish films and film-making. We’re asking everyone we speak to for their three favourite films set in Scotland.

Wow, here’s the thing: I don’t watch a ton of movies, because I’m so busy with work, and mostly read when I have leisure time. But I’ll say TRAINSPOTTING, LOCAL HERO and GREGORY’S GIRL. I need to see more – please send recommendations!

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at Glasgow Film Festival on Saturday 16th February at 5.20pm, and Tuesday 19th February at 7pm. Tickets are available HERE, and our review is now online