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Interview With Ben Cresciman Director Of Sun Choke
By James Whittington, Sunday 30th August 2015
As always variety is the spice of FrightFest and the mixed programme of movies makes it so unmissable. Sun Choke is a movie that dares to be different, a psychological drama with violent undertones the film is trippy and at times menacing director Ben Cresciman has created a very original piece. Here he chats about this much talked about movie.
HC: Where did the concept for Sun Choke come from?
BC: It started as a sort of sunlit, psychological character study of two lonely and disturbed women. But the more I learned about them, the more horrific their story became. There was this pervading sense of unease and dread that I could see was ready to detonate. That slow burn to detonation is what the film ultimately became.
HC: Did the idea and characters change much as you wrote it?
BC: Nothing changed so much as it came into sharper focus. The core of it is pretty much what I had in mind from the beginning, but for me, during the process of writing and revising, you discover moments, bits of dialogue, sometimes the smallest things, and all of a sudden the whole thing looks clearer.
HC: How did you go about casting the movie? Did you have a wish list?
BC: No wish list. The script was pretty definitive in terms of its demands, so it became about finding people who could connect with (and handle) the material. We saw close to a thousand actresses for the 3 main roles, and like the writing process, there are moments when you meet the right person and suddenly you can see the film in your head in a new and exciting way. With Barbara, from our first conversation, there was no question she was the one. In the case of Sarah Hagan and Sara Malakul Lane, they each auditioned for both roles and once we saw the chemistry between them as they are in the film, the whole picture really came into view.
HC: The cast, especially Sarah Hagan give incredibly strong, powerful performances, how did they deal with such dark material?
BC: I'm awed and honored by the work of Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton, and Sara Malakul Lane. They all had a keen understanding and connection to the script, saw the meaning in the madness. The film definitely takes the three of them to some dark places but actors of their caliber understand those moments as opportunities to reach new levels of emotional engagement and artistic expression. Sarah Hagan took on a daunting task inhabiting this character who's the focus of almost every frame in the film, and she turns in a performance unlike anything I've ever seen before.
HC: Barbara Crampton also gives a very deep performance, what was it like working with this legendary actress?
BC: Amazing! She's such a pro, so talented, and just a wonderful person (as are Sarah and Sara), that our work was all that much easier in many ways. She brought depth and nuance to the role and strikes such a fine balance between nurturing and terrifying that makes her character come right to life. One scene during the shoot, she delivered a first take that literally had several crew members teary-eyed, a really palpable moment on the set. And we didn't even use that take, because the next one was even better.
HC: What was the shoot like and did you have a large budget?
BC: The shoot was approximately 17 days and is the greatest, most electric, creatively satisfying experience of my life to date. We didn't have a large budget by any means, but the entire cast and crew was so dedicated, energetic, and generous with their talents, and from the first day it was just a lot of fun. Way more than you might expect given how dark the material gets.
HC: It reminded me very much of the classic black and white, psychological chillers from the 60s, would you agree?
BC: Well, Roman Polanski's Repulsion is a big influence. Likewise of Bergman's Persona. The 60's were an amazing decade for horror films.
HC: Would you make more movies in the genre?
BC: Most definitely.
HC: Are you nervous about it playing to a UK audience?
BC: Not any more than usual. I'm always excited to share the film with a new audience, so I can't wait.
HC: So, what projects are you working on at the moment?
BC: I'm working on two films I'm hoping to film in pretty close succession. One is a pretty wild and anarchic home invasion thriller, and the other I'm playing close to the chest, but I'm psyched to share more details soon.
HC: Ben Cresciman, thank you very much.
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