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Exclusive Interview with CUT! Winning Director Alyosha Saari
By James Whittington, Wednesday 25th October 2006
The Zone Horror CUT! 2006 competition was a huge success with an eclectic range of entries which ranged from the surreal to the down right gore drenched pieces of celluloid. The overall winner was Alyosha Saari of London (who picked up a rather nice cheque for £5000!) was so we thought, seeing as though his piece will be shown on Halloween night) it was time to discover how Kasting came about.

ZH: Tell us a little about yourself

AS: I’m 23 years old, I’ve studied philosophy and film in Paris for the past five years, I was born in the US but raised in Ecuador, South America, and I am now living and studying in London.

ZH: What's your background in film - have you trained anywhere? Have you worked on many other projects?

AS: I’m attending the London Film Academy from which I’ll be graduating soon. Besides working on the other student films on the course, I directed one of the four 5 minute films we develop during the course. I also did one or two amateur films and a student music video for a French rock band back in Paris.

ZH: Tell us about Kasting. How did you develop the concept?

AS: Well it’s hard to say, the script was written very quickly, maybe as a result of doing many castings on the course and realising how competitive the industry is, and how far people are willing to go to make it in there. I also heard some pretty extreme stories about castings. It’s all about this twisted relationship between the industry and the actor, and the fascination of being able to control someone to the point of driving that person to suicide.

ZH: How long did it take to make? What was your budget? Was it a smooth shoot?

AS: We shot everything in a day, and came with a first cut in the next few days. The film cost next to nothing, only around a hundred pounds for set design and food. The shoot was very intense because it involved the tricky rope stunt at the end which made some people nervous, but it all worked fine when we got it, and the last shots of all the other “victims” at the end of the day were fun to do.

ZH: The actress and creepy casting director give terrifically assured performances. Tell us about them.

AS: Monica Bertei is a fantastic young actress who’s been working in short films and commercials lately, I met her on another shoot, so when I came up with Kasting, I knew she was right for the part. Toor Mian graduated from the London Film Academy in 2004, and is mainly a writer/director and he gives a terrific performance each time he appears in a short film. Being a director himself he was quite right for the part as well.

ZH: Is this the first time you've got blood on your hands as a filmmaker?

AS: This is the first horror film I do, but in my first amateur short film the main character gets shot in the back, so maybe that was the first time I got blood in my hands (a mixture of ketchup, red paint and raspberry jam).

ZH: What did you learn making Kasting?

AS: I learned how much a film relies on the cast and how important it is to stick to your original idea to the very end.

ZH: Any interesting anecdotes you'd like to share from the shoot?

AS: I had to do the jump with the rope around my own neck to prove to Monica that it was safe (obviously the rope wasn’t tied to the ceiling), ironically seeing me jump with the rope made her even more frightened.

ZH: How did you hear about CUT!? What do you think of the opportunities it gives to budding horror directors?

AS: I saw a flyer at the London Film Academy and went straight to the web page. It’s a fantastic competition because it’s quite challenging to make a good two minute horror film (you have less time to build a mood and scare the audience!), so it’s very rewarding when you get it right. The competition gives a great opportunity to any horror director to prove himself.

ZH: Legendary horror maverick Lloyd Kaufman said your film was a: "great metaphor regarding the entertainment industry. Very dark with excellent acting." What is it like having your work judged by experts such as Kaufman, Rob Tapert and Alan Jones, all of whom have such a fine horror pedigree?

AS: It’s more than an honour. It’s such a great opportunity to be able to show a short film to the creator of the Toxic avenger, the producer of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy and the master of horror film journalism and get such positive feedback…It’s just amazing!

ZH: Are you working on anything new?

AS: Yes, I have written two short scripts, one of them is a modern adaptation of a tale by Edgar Alan Poe and the other is a peculiar western. During the course I also wrote a 10 minute dark comedy about the publishing industry. I have also considered making a longer film based on the concept of Kasting, as well as starting to develop a feature script that is also related to the entertainment industry.

ZH: Alyosha Saari, thank you very much

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