Regular viewers to the Horror Channel will know about Jen and Sylv Soska. These talented Canadians gave the world Dead Hooker In A Trunk which received its world premiere on the Horror Channel last year.
They came to FrightFest The 13th and blew everyone away with their latest movie, American Mary which has become, for many, the best of the fest. Here, in the second part of an exclusive interview conducted before American Mary was screened,Jen and Sylv chat about FrightFest and their plans for the future.
HC: You're in the UK for American Mary's UK premiere, are you nervous about it showing at FrightFest?
SS: I'm somewhere between completely elated and terrified. I feel that way about every screening. In many ways, I'm much more comfortable with the screening at FrightFest because it is a festival that is made up of the horror community and, although I think people from different walks of life will all get something from the film, Jen and I put specific focus and content for the avid horror fan. In a lot of ways, American Mary is our thank you to all the people that supported Dead Hooker In A Trunk to give us this opportunity to keep making films. I'm very excited to see what they think of the film.
JS: I'm always half insanely excited and half crapping myself. I was much more nervous taking American Mary to the market premiere at Cannes. Market premieres are studio execs, festival heads, distributors, and buyers. You don't have fans there and even if they are fans, they're not looking to have a good time or to enjoy your film. They're there for business and all they're thinking is will this make money. We were really blown away by the response there as they did react like an audience of fans, but FrightFest is a very different beast. I've been told that these fans know their shit and if that makes me nervous. That actually makes me very happy. American Mary has a lot in there that will only be noticed by the true horror fan. There are references to some of our favourite horror films and directors in there including Dead Ringers, Suicide Club, American Psycho, and Irreversible, just to name a few. These are things I don't think just everyone will see. I grew up with Stephen King, Fawlty Towers, and Monty Python. Our sense of humour is dark, a bit disgusting, and dry. Very mumblecore. I feel the UK fans really get us.
HC: Would you like to do a follow up to any of your movies?
SS: Jen and I have been joking about a sequel to DHIAT since we were still filming it. It was inspired by and followed in the footsteps of the El Mariachi trilogy by Robert Rodriguez, so we always planned on making a follow up. Recently, we started to put ideas down, write down scenarios and content. It's going to be bat shit insane.
JS: YES! We've already very loosely been writing it. We want it to be DHIAT on PCP. Just turn your brain off and watch an absolutely mental film where literally anything can and will happen.
HC: Is it a good time for women in the film industry now? Are there more opportunities and do you think they are (finally) getting the respect they deserve?
SS: The industry is extremely difficult and unforgiving. If you work hard and dedicate yourself to your work, it doesn't matter what the outside circumstances are - you make your own opportunities and you bounce back from a lot of rejection. There are very few well known female directors out there, and even fewer genre female directors. I think there are too many reasons for that to give one distinct 'this is why things are the way they are' answer, but I know there are a lot of people asking why things are this way. Considering the population of the planet and how many women there are on it, why don't we have more women creating films? That thought process is the start of change. Kathryn Bigelow's big win as the first female director to win an Academy Award was the start of change. Women making good films and people wanting to see them is the start of change. Things are changing and I'm seeing more and more female filmmakers' work getting recognition. I think this is the beginning of a big change.
JS: I think it is. People seem to have more of an interest in what female filmmakers are doing. I always find it bizarre when people act amazed that women make movies. Alice Guy, the first director of fiction film, not the first female, but THE first, is virtually unknown, but she was a true pioneer. And it was a hell of a lot more difficult for her to get credit for her work. Many of her films weren't even credited to her because of her gender and the times so we've come a long way from there. I do hate that there's this idea out there that being a woman makes it harder for us to do what we do. I don't feel being a woman is in any way a handicap. I'm not a charity case. If the work is strong enough, it will get the recognition that it deserves regardless of gender. I feel the emphasis should be placed on making strong films. That in itself will bring recognition to the women making them.
HC: Who do you look up to in the cinema industry?
SS: Robert Rodriguez and Carlos Gallardo - we grew up on their work and they shared their secrets with their audiences, without them we would be where we are today. I have an enormous amount of respect for Jason Eisener, his work stands out in its unique gory beauty and that's a hard thing to today when you're a Canadian and that content isn't what our country is known for. Eli Roth has been a mentor and friend for years - I can't even begin to express the high level of respect I have for his kindness and support. Mary Harron is just a fantastic filmmaker and, being a Canadian and woman, she is someone I truly admire. Lloyd Kaufman is a great filmmaker - he's had this honest to goodness independent spirit and drive that has given so much to industry.
JS: Everyone Sylv mentioned, of course. Robert and Carlos are massive inspirations to us. Without them and the work that they've done, we wouldn't be where we are today. Everyone should treat themselves to a copy of his Rebel Without A Crew. I really love Joss Whedon. The way he writes just has this beautiful depth and is so thoughtful and real. His characters smash stereotypes and are so unique and original. I love how he can have you laughing one moment and in tears in the next. He is a master at what he does. I've loved him since Roseanne, ha ha
HC: What advice would you give to people wanting to make their own horror movie?
SS: Don't talk about it, do it. Rodriguez's first hand account of making El Mariachi, Rebel Without A Crew, is a must read and his Ten Minute Film Schools are a must see. Lloyd Kaufman's Make Your Own Damn Movie series is also just awesome. We are living in a time where knowledge is so easily accessible - you can learn from your favourite filmmakers directly from interviews, DVD commentaries, and even speaking to them online. You can learn how to make a good solid film with very modest means. You can use social media to get your work out there. Make something that is unique to you - something you aren't seeing be made right now, but also something that not only you would want to see. Be brutal, but not sloppy. Think of the high production value items you have at your disposal and integrate them into your film so that it looks like you had money. Don't write a ten million dollar space saga, write something you can make f*****g rad with what you have and then make it.
JS: Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. We did it and there's absolutely no reason why you can't do it for yourself. Don't wait around for someone to come along and make it happen for you. Don't bitch that you can't get funding. It's tough for everyone and people are not likely to take a chance on an unknown and unproven filmmaker. You have to show them what you're capable of. Go out there and make your own movie. Come up with something, some concept, that really excites you because you will be talking about it for the rest of your life and it will have to drive you. Write a list of your assets. It will amaze you how much you have available. People who will come out and help, people who will act for you, wardrobe you own, props, exotic animals, a business or a friend's business, a local church, your school, just anything. Write it all out and try to put as much of that stuff that you have into your film to bring up your production value. Welcome advice. Someone telling you your film is the bees knees won't help you improve it. You need to be able to take criticism, especially in the editing process. If something isn't working or if people bring up the same thing over and over again, you're not getting what you want across right. You have to change it up or cut it. Be critical with yourself. Be your own hardest critic. By the time you show your work to someone and its less than perfect, you've already made your first impression. And please choose a title that sticks out. There's a lot of competition out there. You owe it to yourself to set yourself apart from the rest.
HC: So what's next for you two?
SS: We're very lucky to have a lot of opportunities for the next project right now. Bob is a story that is very dear and near to our heart. He almost went ahead before we got the green light to American Mary and we are excited to get to work on him next. We are collaborating with the fantastic team at First Comics to bringing our stories into the graphic novel world, being huge comic nerds, it's a dream come true. Right now, it's all about American Mary. She starts her first big screening at FrightFest and I'm dying to get her out there and in front of people.
JS: It really depends. Being horror fans ourselves, we'll always listen to our viewers to hear what they want to see from us next. they'll always be surprised. We like to shake things up. We want to leave you guessing what we'll do next. And we're just getting started.
HC: Jen and Sylvia Soska, thank you very much
JS SS:Thank you SO much!!!