FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Interview With Jovanka Vuckovic Director Of The Guest
By James Whittington, Monday 26th August 2013
Last 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!
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
Posted on Wednesday 6th December 2017
On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.
The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?
RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was su...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017
As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.
To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?
JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we did...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Damien Leone director of Terrifier
Posted on Saturday 28th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event today, director Damien Leone talks about the 'Art' of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience...
Art, The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow's Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?
DL: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horr...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Mathieu Turi director of Hostile
Posted on Wednesday 25th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature Hostile at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his 'magic hour'.
You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?
MT: I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching Braveheart and the making of the ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Marko Makilaakso director of It Came From The Desert
Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film It Came From The Desert at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Makilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles.
It Came From The Desert is inspired by Cinemaware's cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?
MM: There's so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 19...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Can Evrenol director of Housewife
Posted on Thursday 12th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Housewife at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a 'pervert's art' shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror anthology, The Field Guide To Evil.
Was it important to make your follow-up film to Baskin in the English language?
CE: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.
How do you describe Housewife? What would be your perfect pitch line?
CE: Man, I had this crazy f****d-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?
Like Baskin, Housewife shares man...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Dominic Bridges, director of Freehold
Posted on Wednesday 4th October 2017
One of the stand out movies from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was the psychological chiller, Freehold. Dark and at times truly unnerving, the film caused quite a stir and will be released onto DVD on October 9th. Here the film's director Dominic Bridges talking about this superb debut.
HC: Where did the idea for Freehold come from?
DB: Based on personal experience my wife and I suffered a miscarriage whilst trying to buy a house in London whilst the Estate Agents had us bidding against ourselves... I reacted badly which was embarrassing to my wife and myself it all felt like too much fighting for a roof over our heads just tainted the whole of London for us and we moved also the realisation...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Damien Power, director of Killing Ground
Posted on Monday 25th September 2017
One of the best from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was a superior thriller, Killing Ground. This tension packed movie looked incredible on the big screen so we decided to chat to its director, Damien Power.
HC: Did Killing Ground take a long time to write and did it change as you progressed?
DP: It took eleven years from the germ of the idea to stepping onto location to start shooting. Luckily I wasn't working on it full time! Once we had a draft we were happy with, it took five years to put the financing jigsaw together. It's a long journey! The biggest change was that for a number of years it didn't really have a third act. It ended very abruptly at the moment of maximum jeopardy. Fort...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Michael Boucherie writer and director of Where the Skin Lies
Posted on Monday 28th August 2017
More new talent seemed to be around at Horror Channel FrightFest this year and one of the stand out movies for me was Where The Skin Lies from Michael Boucherie. Here he chats about this emotional movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to be in the film-making business?
MB: Going to the movies with my family is a favourite childhood memory. There was no cinema in our home town, so it always involved a bit of a car trip. Afterwards we'd recount and quote our favourite scenes, for some movies up to this day. My mother also filmed and edited our home movies on Super 8, and she involved me in that. So, on some level I grew up with it. It didn't dawn on me that this was a v...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with legendary actress Barbara Crampton
Posted on Tuesday 15th August 2017
Ahead of her eagerly awaited presence at Horror Channel FrightFest 2017, genre icon, actress and producer Barbara Crampton talks exclusively about her latest film Replace, battling chronic fatigue syndrome and her passion for supporting new talent.
Q: Replace raises questions about beauty, body image and growing older, issues that many feel plague the Hollywood movie industry. What is your view on this subject?
BC: The best movies reflect our inner world, our hopes, our good intentions, trials and our demons. Growing old and the fear of death is endemic to all, not just the movie industry. Just when you begin to figure it out your back aches, your skin starts to wrinkle and you gain weight...SHARE: READ MORE Exclusive interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of See No Evil 2
Posted on Tuesday 4th April 2017
Jen and Sylvia Soska are two of the most exciting creatives around at the moment. Their work is visceral, dynamic, exciting and above all bloody entertaining. We've chatted to these multi-talented Canadians about their work to date in the build up to the UK TV premiere of See No Evil 2 this Friday on Horror.
HC: It's been while since we last chatted and apart from See No Evil 2 what have you both been up to?
SS: It has been a while, but it's really cool that we get to chat again. We hosted a reality horror gameshow from Matador, GSN, and Blumhouse called Hellevator that was like Saw: The Gameshow!. We had a blast making it. I really can't even believe that was a job a person could have. We're st...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with 'Life' star Rebecca Ferguson
Posted on Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Previously starring opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Emily Blunt in Girl on the Train, Ferguson steps out as the lead, standing firmly in front of her co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in the Horror/Sci-Fi spectacle Life, which opens in cinemas across the UK this Friday.
Starring as Dr. Miranda North, Ferguson plays the last astronaut on-board an International Space Station which has recently caught a space probe containing the first sign of extra-terrestrial life. Studying the life form quickly turns from fascinating to a complete catastrophe, as the organism rapidly grows strength and intelligence - with the desperation to prey upon those within its reach.
We spoke with Fergus...SHARE: READ MORE PICK OF THE WEEK
Sunday 24th December
Wednesday 27th December
Saturday 23rd December