Brand New Exclusive Interview with Scott Leberecht Director of Midnight Son
By James Whittington, Friday 26th August 2011

Scott LeberechtDirector Scott Leberecht has fashioned a vampire tale with a fresh independent spirit and its showing here on the Discovery Screen at FrightFest 2011, its name is Midnight Son.

When a strange skin disease forces security guard Jacob to avoid sunlight and crave blood, he struggles to control increasingly violent impulses to move from black market donor packs to sucking on living victims. Then the local police start targeting him as a suspect in a series of grisly murder.

Leberecht makes telling points about basic humanity to fashion a minor masterpiece brimming with vibrant performances and creepy unpredictability. It's an incredibly powerful piece and we've been lucky enough to chat to Scott.

HC: Where did the idea for the film come from?

MC: When I lived in San Francisco, there was an old house I walked past every day that was boarded up and seemingly abandoned. The odd thing was that someone had covered the windows (from the inside) with whimsical paintings of trees and rainbow landscapes. I imagined a person trapped inside that could not come out, trying to connect with people passing by – someone who perhaps could not be exposed to sunlight, and was very lonely. At that point I realized I had never really seen a vampire film that depicted the physical condition as something debilitating and tragic, as opposed to empowering or romantic.

HC: Are you a fan of the vampire genre?

MC: Truth is, I never really set out to make a vampire movie. It just became the perfect vehicle for a story I wanted to tell about a young man coping with his transformation into something he believes is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’. Treating it as a congenital illness-- rather than an infection by some outside organism-- played into the idea of my character being antagonized by his own body. Events like puberty, sexual attraction, and falling in love are all things that happen to us from the inside out. We generally dislike being at the mercy of anything, but when the thing we don’t want emanates from within, our self-image shatters. We must cope with a new set of rules, and our identity is temporarily on hold. These are very scary moments in life, and it is always what I wanted to explore. I guess I just wanted to tell a story about what happens when your body wants something your mind doesn’t, and the vampire character seemed perfect for it.

HC: Midnight Son is your debut feature, how nervous were you on the first day on set?

MC: Before Midnight Son, I made a short film called Natural Selection. It was a seven day shoot. Midnight Son was twenty-two. Nights. My biggest fear was the endurance test that my crew and I were about to embark on. We lived like vampires for almost a month, and I was very relieved to get through it without any kind of physical/mental/emotional exhaustion issues.

HC: Jacob seems to feel almost guilty as he discovers his lust for blood, a stand out moment is with the cross when he presses it to his forehead, did you want the audience to sympathise with his increasing predicament?

MC: Yes. I wanted the character to act as we would act. If he went through the movie and never thought for a second that he might be a vampire, the audience would think he is a moron. I had to show him actively investigate the possibility. My hope is that the story not only confuses the character, but the audience as well. I want people to question their own pre-existing concepts of vampirism.

HC: It’s very melodramatic, wordy and urban, Jacob has a conscience, was this your intent from the start? To make Jacob a believable “vampire”?

MC: I definitely wanted Jacob to be someone we could relate to, so his 'issues' couldn't stray into the realm of the supernatural. They had be simple and biologically based. This narrowed it down to two major problems - sunlight and blood. I kept just enough classic mythology intact to call him a ‘vampire’ without falling into the trap of more hard to believe aspects of the archetype. Being forced to stay out of sunlight and drink blood to survive felt like enough complication to me. These two things would create plenty of problems for anyone in any society.

HC: Were you influenced or inspired by such moves as Martin, Near Dark and Let The Right One In?

MC: A friend told me about Martinafter he had read the first draft of my script. I had never seen it and was surprised by the similarities. Near Dark was definitely an inspiration. I sometimes referred to that film when I pitched the story to people. The trailer for Let The Right One In was released right after I shot Midnight Son, and I was simultaneously elated and upset. I loved the whole premise of the movie and was overjoyed that someone finally made something so incredibly edgy, but felt that it was so superior to Midnight Son that I became very self-conscious and depressed when comparing the two.

HC: Jacob and Mary are similar as both have dark, secret habits was this a deliberate plot point to show the real dark side of suburbia as well as a fantastical one?

MC: One line of dialogue in Midnight Son that really captures the theme of the movie is "Everybody's got their thing." I read a lot of Carl Jung, absorbing as much as I could about what he called 'the shadow'. He theorized that everyone has unconscious, repressed instincts, and that the more these hidden aspects of the personality are blocked from integration with the conscious mind, the more powerful they become. I believe all classic movie monsters are safe 'fairy tales for adults' to help us cope with the stress that this classic human condition creates in our lives. Jacob has secrets, so does Mary, and so do we.

HC: The end scene is incredibly powerful, you must be happy the way that turned out?

MC: I am. Very much. To me, it captures in a single image what it feels like to be in a relationship.

HC: Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish give considered and emotional performances, were they your first choice for the roles of Jacob and Mary?

MC: I saw Maya Parish in a short film directed by a colleague while attending the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. At the time, I was writing Midnight Son, and thought she could be right for the role of Mary. I approached her after the screening, and said I may have a part for her. Years later, I sent her the script. She loved it and agreed to play the part. Zak Kilberg was led to a website I created early on to raise awareness and support as we neared production. He sent me a headshot and I thought he looked perfect for the lead role. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and he was in LA. He then shot a video, acting in a scene I had written. I loved it, and wanted to meet him. After that meeting, I knew he was right for the role and didn’t bother to audition anyone else. As far as their chemistry goes, I like to think there was some weird metaphysical harmony at work.

HC: What projects are you working on at the moment?

MC: I am back to my old job as a freelance storyboard artist. Also writing another feature-length screenplay that I hope will get financing so I can make another movie someday. I'm kind of addicted.

HC: Scott Leberecht, thank you very much.

MC: You are very welcome!

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