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Interview With Adam Egypt Mortimer Director Of Some Kind Of Hate
By James Whittington, Saturday 29th August 2015
Some Kind Of Hate is a horror movie with a message. Not as rare as you may think at first but never has specific subjects been tackled with such ferocity. Here I chat to director Adam Egypt Mortimer about this incredibly powerful movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?
AM: When I was very young I didn’t think of it as an industry of course, but I have an early memory of finding a published version of The Exorcist screenplay on my uncle’s bookshelf. I read it -- at least some of it, this was early in my reading skills development -- and then I remember trying to mimic the format. I may have gotten a few pages into a script about a werewolf. And then a few years later I discovered Tom Savini, and anytime friends came over to my house I was making them over in zombie makeup or casting part of their face. Though it was a long time before I finally became a professional filmmaker. I had to travel through some confusing years as a musician and an artist in New York before really arriving at total devotion to film.
HC: Where did the idea for Some Kind Of Hate come from?
AM: I put my hands into the air and felt that what was really needed in the current indy horror world was a new supernatural slasher. A gritty, emotional Freddy. I’d been having a super productive writing collaboration with Brian DeLeeuw -- we were adapting his first novel, In This Way I Was Saved -- and I suggested to him that we write something very low budget which would possibly be a kind of literary, indy drama approach to the sub genre. I wanted to find an iconic slasher character. He came back to me with the bare bones idea of a bullied high school kid and a dead girl who starts to kill on his behalf. And then the party started.
HC: The young actors give very powerful, full rounded performances, did it take long to cast?
AM: It took a long time to get the movie fully put together, with a number of false starts, failures, and relaunches. And so throughout all of that time, I was casting it, recasting, workshopping it, and learning more about how to work with actors for this particular movie. The downtime was frustrating but ultimately really helped the movie. All the time I spent in auditions turned out to be opportunities to learn more about the scenes and the characters, and it gave us a chance to see what was working in the script and what wasn’t. Some of the actors -- like Spencer Breslin -- remained attached to the movie for months and months ahead of time; while others -- like Sierra McCormick -- came in like a bolt of lightning at the very last minute.
HC: Obviously the inclusion of Sierra McCormick will raise some eyebrows don’t you think?
AM: Do you mean among her tween fans? I’m counting on it. I want this to be the first intense horror movie experience that some of these kids will ever have. I had some life-ruining experiences seeing movies when I was too young, and I just hoping to give back!
HC: Must say her performance is incredibly strong as is the rest of the young cast.
AM: Thank you for saying so! It was so important to me to focus on performances in this movie, and if that aspect is connecting, then I couldn’t be happier. Sierra’s awesome. When we first wrote the script, people would tell us that they loved the story but that “the monster shouldn’t talk so much.” This threw us at first, and then I started workshopping the scenes and discovered that not only was it not a mistake for her to talk, it was really the core concept of the movie: a supernatural slasher with very expressive emotions. She talks and feels like a real teenage girl, but she is not bound by the physical constraints of one -- she’s an angry 17 year old and nothing can stop her. I knew that we would need a strong performance -- Moira couldn’t be merely a physical presence in makeup, she would have to be a fully dramatic character. And the rest of the cast did a phenomenal job as well. Everyone understood going into it that we were looking for something emotional, that I was interested in exploring what this was really about -- in the rehearsal time that I had with Ronen and Grace and the rest of the cast, we would talk about the things that really hurt us -- breakups and heatbreak, loss of loved ones, things we regretted. Again, if those feelings make it on to the screen to the audience, than I consider it a huge win.
HC: You use the natural landscape to emphasise the isolation Lincoln experiences, where did you shoot the movie?
AM: We shot at a real summer camp in Castaic, which is actually just a bit north of LA -- a short drive each morning. Location was hugely important to me, and we visited at a lot of places to find the right look. Because we wouldn’t have a lot of money for production design, we had to find a landscape that would give me what I wanted -- a very controlled color palette and a sense of the lifelessness of a desert. We also wanted to be able to shoot a lot in daylight exteriors, which is counter to the visual design we often see in horror.
HC: The film is very bleak in places, what was the atmosphere like on set?
AM: Thank you! I’m glad you found it bleak. We were going for bleak. Bleak with a chance of adrenaline. But shooting was not bleak -- we had a great time, everyone was engaged in the project, there was singing and laughing and cannoodling. It did get bleak at the very end -- we shot the final sequence -- the basement and the fire -- on a very long single day. As you know if you’ve seen the movie, it doesn’t turn out great for all the characters, and there was this growing feeling on set that we were in hell, that the death and violence grew around us. Everyone was working very quietly, very sad. It got heavy.
HC: Do you have something to say in this movie, that some kids at the moment are part of a lost generation?
AM: We’re all pretty lost, man. Someone called Moira a “monster for the millenials,” and I love that description. But I don’t think we were going for a message about this particular generation. The story uses the present moment and hopefully speaks to kids in a way that feels real; the kind of brutality that Lincoln and Moira go through is specific to the current context -- but brutality is not unique to millenials.
HC: The effects are quite something, how much was done live on set?
AM: Thank you! When you make a slasher, there is a lot of pressure to get the goddamn blood right. In a perfect world, we would have done everything practical, but because of the unique and magical powers that Moira has, that would have been impossible. So every effects -- every razor cut, head smash and saw cut -- had to be approached as it’s own particular problem to be solved. A lot of what you are seeing is a unique mix of practical and digital. Sometimes an actor would have the practical wound applied, and then the digital team would hide and reveal it as needed. The ratio between practical and digital slides around every time. But I will say we lit people on fire with really f*****g flames for the finale. That was something I insisted on all the way through -- “we’re going to light people on fire.”
HC: The soundtrack is awesome, a mix of industrial soundscapes and cracking tunes, was it hard to get the balance right?
AM: Bob Allaire is a master. He understood exactly what I was going for, the anxiety and tones we needed in the soundtrack. After a lot of initial discussion, he started sending me music that needed very little back and forth. He absorbed the feeling we needed and he created the sound. The tunes were so important to the movie, and our music supes Tim and Mandy delivered the good shit at our incredibly low budget. As a lifetime metalhead, I needed that aspect to be authentic. My editor Josh Ethier shares an obsession with metal, and my cowriter Brian has a vast and amazing collection of vintage Iron Maiden and Slayer t-shirts. So if we put metal in the movie, it had to be real. I heard a track by Myrkur towards the end of our edit and I became obsessed with using her music for the opening credits -- a female solo black metal project was absolutely the voice of the movie, I just love her sound. And we auditioned a lot of possible metal tracks for the scene where Lincoln shares a song with Kaitlin.
HC: It’s a smart twist on the revenge and hack n’ slash genres, would you like to work within these genres again?
AM: I love genre, and I love the idea of looking at a genre and discovering a new way to use it. That’s the thing that’s interesting about genre, is that it gives you a vocabulary and a potential for myth, but it frees you to go off the rails with it as well. I will definitely be doing more horror. I wouldn’t immediately set out to create another slasher, although if the right idea came around I’d chase it. I could probably be tempted by a great remake idea. I did just film something new involving a bit of dismemberment, so I can’t say I’ve left it all behind just yet. And we have a sequel storyline for Some Kind Of Hate already written, which I’d love to do one way or another.
HC: This is your first feature, how much of a learning curve has it been?
AM: I got to spend a long time preparing for it - if we had shot it the moment the ink dried on the script it would not have turned out as well. So the curve-climbing was built into the frustrations and obsession of preparation.
HC: What advice would you give to budding film makers out there?
AM: Make the actors your number one priority. Plan the style of your film to the point that other people call you crazy.
And then be able to let anything go as soon as reality hits or a better idea comes around.
HC: So, what projects do you have lined up next?
AM: I’ve been producing a horror anthology called Holidays, which has a ton of amazing directors each doing a different segment, and I just wrapped on my own contribution to it -- a darkly comic / action packed hyper violent take on the idea of a “worst date ever” set on New Year’s Eve. Brian and I have written two other scripts that I want to direct -- one is a psychotronic break-up movie in the tradition of Possession or Lost Highway, set in Singapore, starring Noah Segan. The other is the adaptation of Brian’s novel, which is a super inventive ghost story set in Manhattan. I’m currently writing a gritty, hyperreal science fiction crime script with a twisted superhero mythos at its core. I’d also encourage everyone who likes the truly insane to check out my graphic novel Ballistic, with art by Darick Robertson. That released earlier this year.
HC: Adam Egypt Mortimer, thanks you very much.
AM: Thank you! I appreciate all your questions!
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