Interview With Jovanka Vuckovic Director Of The Guest
By James Whittington, Monday 26th August 2013

JV 1Last year at FrightFest we were treated to an astonishing short from Jovanka Vuckovic called The Captured Bird. This year she has delivered the equally impressive but totally different piece The Guest. Here this talented artist chats about her work and future plans.

HC: We first chatted last year when your beautiful short The Captured Bird was shown at FrightFest 2012. You must be pleased how this piece has been received across the globe?

JV: Pleased is an understatement! It has played over 60 festivals around the globe, earned four Best Short Film awards and opened theatrically for the Soska Sister’s American Mary in 25 theatres in Canada. I never dreamed it would have so much life. And it continues to thrive on DVD and iTunes rentals. I’m so grateful for everyone interested enough in the short film format to give it a look. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has supported it.

HC: Has it opened doors for you at all?

JV: Well, because it was so arty and didn’t have any dialogue, it’s not the kind of thing that lands you a 60 million dollar feature. But it’s the movie that I wanted to make. Of course there was the initial flood of interest from agents in Hollywood but I didn’t start making films so that I could score a gig directing Final Destination 7 or the sequel to the remake of Carrie. I’m making the films that I want to make, with my friends. If Cronenberg can do it, so can I. [Laughs]. At any rate, yes, of course The Captured Bird was an incredible experience that introduced me to so many great people that I worked with again on a tiny short called Self Portrait and again on The Guest. I also learned some hard lessons on that film. But you do on every film.

HC: Where did the idea for The Guest come from?

JV: I made this short as an assignment for the Toronto International Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers Competition. They gave us a tiny budget, two months and a theme: MEMORY. One of the first things that came to mind while I was thinking about memory is how unreliable it is. And by extension, how much I love stories and films that feature unreliable narrators. So I started writing a brief script – it had to be under five minutes – about a man who trades his memories for something that is never revealed to us. We all do this in our lives. Subconsciously we block memories that are not favourable and distort and inflate memories we judge as pleasant. We construct our own reality this way. As far as films, my biggest inspiration was, believe it or not, The Mothman Prophecies; remember when Richard Gere is having that phone conversation with Indrid Cold (the Mothman) in the hotel? “Chaaaaap stickkkk.” That’s always stayed with me so The Guest is very much a direct homage to the basic creepiness of that scene: A man having a conversation with something that may or may not be real. I was also inspired by Session 9, another film that never reveals whether the protagonist is suffering a psychotic break or actually tormented by a supernatural menace. There are a few more subtle nods in there to other films that can be quite revealing about the main character, but I’ll leave that to the horror aficionados to discover. It’s a movie that asks a lot of questions and offers subtle answers. Who is Barlowe? Why did he trade his memories? What did he trade them for? Who is The Guest? What’s great about ambiguity is that it leaves stories open to interpretation, which gives the story more longevity. Look at Blade Runner, we’ll be arguing whether or not Deckard was a replicant until the sky falls.

But he IS a replicant!

HC: How long did it take to get the story and script right?

JV: Like I said, TIFF didn’t give us a lot of time so I wrote it in a few days. I sent the first draft to some filmmakers I trust who gave me some very valuable feedback. It was reading too much like a Faustian bargain, which isn’t what I wanted, so I made some changes to get it right.

HC: What sort of budget did you have?

JV: We had a small grant from TIFF and the rest came out of my own pocket. I’m actually amazed at how good it looks given the money I had to spend on it, which is a testament to the talents of the crew, especially our DP, Ian Anderson. He’s one of the busiest DPs in Toronto for good reason. I’m so lucky he said yes. His shots pretty much looked exactly like the photos in my look book. Unlike The Captured Bird, everyone worked for free on The Guest and we got a ton of gear for next to nothing. But they gave it their all and we’re really proud of this little film.

JV: It has some stunning imagery in it, were those scenes difficult to shoot?

HC: The stuff inside Anastasia Masaro’s house wasn’t too bad. She’s our production designer. Her place is so beautiful, she made it easy. But the white void stuff was shot in a make up school in Toronto – pretty much the only place that was willing to let us spill gallons of fake blood onto the floor. That was a set and you can imagine how difficult it was, with each blood effects take, not to splatter blood all over the white muslin! It’s was a technical nightmare to stage with fake floors and machinery that had a mind and direction of its own. But I had a blast doing that stuff. I tortured poor Jordan Gray by making him vomit blood for hours! And that’s my niece Izzy with the bleeding heart. What a trooper she was!

HC: The Captured Bird and The Guest are at opposite ends of film production, which was the hardest to make?

JV: I had to write, direct and produce The Guest so in many ways that was more stressful because I was holding the cheque book! On The Captured Bird, I was so well protected from that stuff. All I had to do was show up and be prepared and know what I want. I had a crew of 50 on that short – it looked like a feature and they really took care of me. So making a tiny movie for a sliver of the budget was in many ways much more difficult. What I’m learning is there’s never enough money – whether you’re making a 6000 dollar movie or a $60 million dollar movie.

HC: The Guest is existentialist horror at its best and stands up to repeated viewings, are you a big fan of this sub-genre?

JV: I don’t even know if it’s really recognized as a subgenre but I do love ambiguous stories about characters in existential crisis. Isolated physically, mentally, emotionally – or a combination of all three. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, Jacob’s Ladder, Bergman’s The Hour of the Wolf, Kafka’s The Trial, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw are all superlative examples of existential horror. So yes I guess you could say I am a fan of those types of stories.

HC: Are you worried some people might not “get it” and are you nervous about it showing at FrightFest 2013?

JV: Not at all. People will bring their own experience to it and make their own determinations about the story. The same thing happened with The Captured Bird. Some people thought it was a metaphor for sexual abuse while others thought it was about fear of mothering and most saw it as a visual poem about the loss of innocence. How they responded to the film depended on their life experience. Interesting, isn’t it?

HC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to shoot their own short?

JV: I’m still new at this. I’ve only made three short films so I am not really in a position to be telling other people how to do it. But what I found helpful was surrounding myself with optimistic and inspiring people who knew what they were doing. That way I was the least experienced person in the bunch and I had plenty of people to ask for help.

HC: You’re a person of many talents; do you have a favourite job that you do?

JV: Yes. Unequivocally. It’s being a mother to my daughter.

HC: So what are you working on at the moment?

JV: This week I am traveling to Providence, Rhode Island to unveil the bronze bust of H.P. Lovecraft with my friend Bryan Moore on the 123rd anniversary of the author’s birthday. I’ve got a fun little pocket book coming out full of some of my favourite facts, trivia and lists called Vuckovic’s Horror Miscellany. But I should say that I’m actually retiring completely from non-fiction writing so that I can focus on my creative endeavours and film work. I find it takes up too much time I could be doing the work I really enjoy. I’ve never felt more at home than when I first stepped on a film set. So that’s the direction I want to keep going in. I have a very exciting film project that just got green lit, it should be announced very shortly now. I’ll be associate producing, writing and directing the project and we’ve assembled a tremendously talented group of people for it. We can’t wait to tell you guys all about it!

JV: Jovanka Vuckovic, thank you very much.

HC: Thank you for the support, Horror Channel and FrightFest! Big love from Canada!

Friendly Beast - FrightFest review
Posted on Sunday 18th March 2018

Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow was a true showcase for world cinema. One of the stand out pieces came from Gabriela Amaral Almeida who wrote and directed Friendly Beast, a film so visceral yet beautiful at the same time, it left an indelible mark on this reviewer's mind.

It's nearly closing time at a struggling restaurant. Staff want to go home while the boss struggles with money troubles and a desire for more power in his life. Enter two robbers, the catalyst for a violent situation, which the boss is initially able to contain and gain the upper hand. Suddenly, the already dangerous and explosive situation turns deadly; sides are taken, and people turn to the most abhorrent behaviour in an instant.


Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil - FrightFest review
Posted on Tuesday 6th March 2018

Ever wished that Terry Gilliam made more movies? The man who gave us Jabberwocky, The Fisher King and Brazil gave the world a new perspective and encouraged budding movie makers around the world to make their own visions and to stick by what they wanted to create.

Step forward Paul Urkijo whose demonic movie Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil just had its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow. This film is the closest thing to anything Gilliam has made in the past but at the same time feels so original and fresh that it deserves multiple views just to appreciate the detail and love in every single frame.

Ten years after Civil War in Spain 1833, orphan Usue (Uma Bracaglia) seeks es...

Book of Monsters - Exclusive look at new poster
Posted on Monday 5th March 2018

Those of you lucky enough to make it through the snow to Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow at the weekend were treated to a quick look at Book of Monsters.

From the team that brought us The Creature Below a couple of years back, this female lead, action-packed monster movie draws inspiration from the cult horror cinema of the 80s and 90s including such classics as Scream, Gremlins and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. With sick, gory practical creature effects and a dark comedic edge, the film promises to be a fun, bloody and sexy trip back to a time when making it through high school was truly life or death.

The film was successfully funded through Kickstarter in August 2017, raising 45,000 and became one...

Pyewacket - Frightfest Review
Posted on Monday 5th March 2018

You know the feeling you get when you see a film that you know nothing about, not even the title gives anything away and you view with an open mind and then it blows your proverbial socks off? Well this is exactly what happened to me with Pyewacket.

Confused and infuriated for being forced to move away from friends after the death of her father, Leah (Nicole Munoz) performs a blood incantation calling on an evil entity to punish her grieving mother (Laurie Holden). Immediately regretful, she realises she can't reverse the ritual curse and an unholy presence now stalks them both in their rural home.


Where do I start with such a movie? Well, let's begin with the sc...

Attack of the Bat Monsters - FrightFest Review
Posted on Saturday 3rd March 2018

For a movie that's had a longer gestation period than any project I've known of, Attack of the Bat Monsters looks as if it could have been made yesterday, or the 1950s where its set! More on this later, here's what the film is about:

The movie follows schlock impresario Francis Gordon as he and his intrepid crew attempt to shoot an impromptu monster movie in the three days left over from the film they've just wrapped. This is the 1950s Z-Grade movie industry as its never been seen before.

From the Saul Bass opening title homage (which is worth seeing by itself) the movie perfectly encapsulates the era of post-World War II guerrilla film-making. Attack of the Bat Monsters ha...

Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Posted on Thursday 1st March 2018

One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?

PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so ev...

Interview with Adam MacDonald, writer and director of Pyewacket.
Posted on Wednesday 28th February 2018

There have been a number of occult and demonic movies over the last few years but none have come close to the tension and terror of Adam MacDonald's Pyewacket. The superb piece of cinema is showing at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this week so I had a quick chat with Adam about this superior shocker.

HC: Have you always been a horror fan?

AM: It really started when I was about 7 years old when my older brother showed me Evil Dead. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it truly rocked me. The card scene in the film did not leave my mind for days. That film is stained on my brain. I was terrified. But then I had a realisation that I loved that feeling. It was primal. Then I watched The Shinin...

Interview with Kelly Greene, writer and director of Attack of the Bat Monsters
Posted on Tuesday 27th February 2018

Making movies can be a tough business but to have to wait almost two decades to release your work takes true dedication. At Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this weekend Kelly Greene's Attack of the Bat Monsters is finally unleashed. Here he tells us the story behind this celebration of 1950s creature features.

HC: You were inspired to write Attack of the Bat Monsters when you were researching 50s movies, did it take long to write?

KG: It took quite a while because I was working 50 to 60 hours a week at a video production facility while raising a 2-year old and 8-year old, along with my wife, who was also working. I would write at night between 9 and 11pm, and maybe a little more ...

Interview with Patrick Magee, writer and director of Primal Rage
Posted on Monday 26th February 2018

There's been a spate of "bigfoot-style, beast in the woods" types of movies recently but none have come anywhere near Primal Rage. This superior creature feature from Patrick Magee will be having its European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this Friday so I decided to have a chat with this very talented and creative person.

HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to work in the film industry?

PM: Since a very young age I was always into, even obsessed, with movies. Specifically horror movies, monster movies really. As a hobby, I got really into special make-up effects and drawing. It got to the point where I was so obsessed with it, I decided when I was a teen that I ha...

Interview with Gabriela Amaral, writer and director of Friendly Beast
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

As we get ready for the trip to Scotland for this year's Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow I've been lucky enough to chat to Gabriela Amaral about her powerful movie Friendly Beast which is getting its UK Premiere at the event.

HC: Was there a certain piece of work or person that inspired you to work in the industry?

GA: Yes, there was. I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and I decided to study cinema because of him. In the beginning, I didn't know what would I do with movies. Would I be an academic? A film critic? A director? I just knew I had to live doing something that had to do with movies. I graduated in Communication Studies in Brazil where I studied horror movies and literature (specific...

Horror Channel FrightFest announces Glasgow Film Festival 2018 line-up
Posted on Thursday 11th January 2018

Be prepared to feast on a chilling cornucopia of savage shocks, unsettling surprises and devilish delights as the UK's favourite horror fantasy event returns to the Glasgow Film Festival for its 13th year, from Thursday 1 March to Saturday 3 March 2018.

This year's bold line-up, once again housed at the iconic Glasgow Film Theatre, embraces the latest horror, fantasy and sci-fi discoveries from ten countries, spanning four continents, reflecting the world-wide popularity of the genre.

Ghost Stories remains one of the scariest stage shows ever seen and on Thursday night FrightFest kicks off with a special screening of Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson's smash hit phenomenon. Starring Martin Freedman, ...

Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson join judges panel for FrightFest and Glasgow Film Festival's 90 Second Film Challenge
Posted on Tuesday 9th January 2018

Ghost Stories writer and director team Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson will join Hex Studio's Lawrie Brewster, FrightFest's Paul McEvoy and Glasgow Film Festival head honcho Allison Gardner on the judge's panel for the FrightFest Glasgow 90 Second Challenge.

Aspiring filmmakers living in Scotland are invited to create an entertaining Horror, Sci-Fi or Fantasy film within just 90 seconds.

Films must be shot in Scotland by Scottish residents and entries must not currently be available online. All submissions are free and must be received by Tuesday 13th February 2018. Filmmakers of entries selected to be screened will be notified by 23rd February 2018.

Here's where to apply and read terms and condi...

Frightfest Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
Wednesday 28th March
9.45 PM
Saturday 24th March
6.40 PM
Season of the Witch (2011)
Thursday 29th March
9.55 PM