LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Directors Jen And Sylvia Soska - Part 2
By James Whittington, Saturday 28th January 2012
Jen and Sylvia Soska are the talented twins behind the hit flick Dead Hooker In A Trunk which got its UK television premiere last year on the Horror Channel.
We decided to catch up with them to ask what they thought of the movie being shown on the Horror Channel and the impact its made on both sides of the Atlantic. They gave such a great interview we needed to split the piece in half. In this the second part the ladies chat about their new feature American Mary and their other plans for the future.
HC: How is your next feature, American Mary coming along?
Sylvia: Awesome. We're in post production on American Mary right now and I am just so proud of this film. It's a very ballsy, dark, and unique film and in today's market where even proven directors are having struggles to get their work made, it's amazing that this film got made with a team that took a risk making something so utterly original. The teams at Industry Works, 430 Productions, Riaz Tyab, and my parents - who mortgaged their home to get this made - are invaluable, supportive, and creative partners that believed in us and this project. It's like nothing else out there and you need a phenomenal team behind you to get that done.
Jen: I'll second that. F*****g awesome. We've been called ambitious again and again. I don't see it as a bad thing. If you aim for the stars and end up reaching the moon, that's not half bad. There's no point in setting your sights low. Dream big. That's what dreams are for. That being said, our hopes and expectations for American Mary were sky high. I feel we've surpassed them. We're very proud of the work. It's our best.
HC: Can you give us a quick idea of what it’s all about?
Sylvia: American Mary follows the story of medical student, Mary Mason played by the intoxicatingly talented Katharine Isabelle, who grows increasingly broke and disenchanted by medical school and the surgeons she once admired. The allure of easy money and notoriety brings her into the world of underground surgeries that leaves more marks on Mary than her so-called 'freakish' clientele.
Jen: It's a very special feeling to bring the story and characters you've created to life with an outstanding team. Our crew were irreplaceable. I can't say enough kind things about them. Our cast was pitch perfect. They really breathe life into our characters and became them. I see them on screen and only see the character. It's wonderful. They're really unique and flawed and human and beautiful. I'd say the film is a redefinition of horror. I think a lot of people will be surprised and excited to see a film like this from the creators of Dead Hooker In A Trunk. It's a sophisticated horror. I believe the film will haunt people long after they've seen it. And it'll bring them back to see it again and again.
HC: Did it take long to write?
Sylvia: That's actually a funny story. When we finished Dead Hooker, we sent the trailer to all of the directors from the multi-collaborative Grindhouse flick that had inspired us to make the fake trailer that led to the feature. We didn't expect to hear back, but we wrote that your work inspired us to make this and thank you. A couple days later, we get a response from Eli Roth who is the coolest, most down to earth, horror nerd not he planet. He really helped us out, giving us advice since he's been there before. He asked what other scripts we had, which we didn't, so we lied. I pitched a few things that I thought I could write and he said that the medical student one sounded cool. I bullshitted that I needed a couple weeks to just give it a look over and I'd send it over. Jen and I based the script on something that was deeply disturbing and fascinating to us. We wrote the script in two weeks and sent it over. When we met up, I had to admit to Eli what had happened, but if it wasn't for that conversation, the script wouldn't have been written. It's been re-written a f**k load to get it to where it needed to be, but initially it was two weeks. That's usually how long it takes us to get one done.
Jen: Eli's an extremely talented and brilliant filmmaker. His insight, not only into filmmaking itself, but also into the film industry, has been invaluable to us. He challenges us to be better and never just tells us want we want to hear. He tells us what we need to hear. I look very forward to sharing the film with him. Writing with Sylv is an extreme pleasure. We develop the script together and then pitch ideas back and forth as we work out the details. We then decide who gets to write which part and up to where and we switch off like that back and forth. The other one of us usually plays video games. Sylv is brilliant and I feel so lucky to be able to work with her. I really don't know how you "normies" do it alone.
HC: Will you both have acting roles in it?
Sylvia: We do a role in the film, but it will be our last acting role for now. It was hard to jump in front of and behind the camera when we were making Dead Hooker - you really want to be there to watch every single moment, so you can get what you need. I want to focus on writing and directing for the time being, but it was a really fun last role. I think people are going to get a kick out of it.
Jen: I already miss the characters we play. We were editing their scenes today and I thought, "f**k, they sure have a lot of fun." I can't wait to see how audiences will react to them. I love acting and always will. Right now, we both want to put the focus on our writing and directing. Honestly, you wouldn't believe how many scripts we have ready to go and how many more we have in different stages of development. There's so much we want to do. We have to get on it. It would have to be one hell of a role and one hell of a director to bring us out of retirement.
HC: Does it have a larger budget compared to DHIAT?
Sylvia: We were still a modestly budgeted independent, but it was a much bigger budget than the $2500 of Dead Hooker. It's weird when you have a full team in every department working their asses off for you and not a group of your friends running around like crazy with some shop lights, an HVX 200, and a lot of guerrilla shots. I couldn't believe the team we got out on this. Some of the most talented people in the business - Todd Masters and the Masters FX team (makeup and FX), Brian Pearson (DP), Cliff Hokanson (steadicam operator), Brad Jubenvill (1st AD), Tony Devenyi (Production Designer), Jayne Mabbott of Enigma Arcana (costumes), Ann Forry (casting), and John Wittmayer (locations) - who really killed it with the film. I've found the team that I want to work with for the rest of my days - the crew on Mary were brilliant.
Jen: Yes. Though we won't say how much our budget was just yet, it was considerably bigger than our $2,500 DHIAT budget. It is still an independent film. After Hooker, people wanted to know what we could do with a bigger budget. American Mary is the answer. We couldn't have done it without the incredible support of Industry Works, 430 Productions, Riaz Tyab, and my parents.
HC: Will it get a UK release do you know?
Sylvia: We're planning on it. The UK has been so wonderful to us that we really are hoping to be able to travel with the film there for some festival screenings. It would be nice to meet the people who have been digging the work and see firsthand what they think of the new film.
Jen: Of course! We'll demand it. We love the UK. I have been talking online with friends and fans over there for years now. Nothing would make us happier than to actually come tour the festival circuit over there with Mary and meet everyone who has been behind us since DHIAT.
HC: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Sylvia: We have a new film called Bob that we are stoked to hopefully get into production later this year. It's extremely dark but also probably the funniest script we've ever written. Also, I can't wait to get my crew back for another film. Working with that team on American Mary was probably the happiest time of my life.
Jen: Bob is going to be the next one unless life throws some other opportunity our way. We had actually begun production on Bob before American Mary got the go ahead and he's been chilling on the back burner, not so patiently. We'll be doing another annual PSA for our Women In Horror Massive Blood Drive. There's no substitute for blood and we have a world full of potential donors that aren't doing anything about the shortages. And mostly 'cuz they're afraid of a little needle. We'd like to help change that. We encourage everyone, anywhere they are, to donate blood all month long.
We have a few more projects, but we have to keep them hush hush. For now. We have some very big plans and we're just getting started.
HC: How do you decide which one of you will direct which scene?
Sylvia: It's confusing enough to have two directors, let alone having them be identical twins. To avoid confusion, we pre-plan what we are shooting for the day and one person acts as a mouth piece as we discuss different aspects with one another. We each have strong points. Jen is really good at talking to people - she's a wonderful, crazy, compassionate, and eloquent human being. She can put up with me, which is also one of her strong attributes. I couldn't make movies without her.
Jen: We divide and conquer a lot of the time. We don't have time to have sibling tiffs on set and rarely do these days, but we always plan who's taking care of what well before we set foot on set. If there's a scene one of us feels strongest about, they get final say that day. There's no time for a back and forth. Sylv is very artful and thoughtful. She is very specific about cinematography and the look and feel and mood of the film as a whole and each specific scene. She's a true artist with an eye for detail and a mind that knows that if so and so does this here, twenty scenes later it'll mean this when she has to do that. She has true vision. She can be intense, but she just doesn't tolerate anyone working at a level beneath the high expectations she puts on herself. I wish everyone could be so lucky as to get to work with her, but I just happen to be her twin so I totally called dibs for eternity.
HC: Can you forsee a time when you’ll work independently of each other?
Sylvia: Not in writing or directing. I write too dark, I don't think the films would be as fun without Jen's input. Directing is a total team effort as well. If I ever did acting again, I suppose that might be an opportunity to work separately of one another on someone else's project, but who knows. Working without Jen isn't my plans at the moment.
Jen: We could, but I don't see why we'd choose to. We work together seamlessly. Being a twin you get to have this totally unique understanding of one another. We're blessed that way. Even if we don't agree all the time. We can give the other a single look and have a full conversation. I love working with her. Hell, we've even promised to come back as a ghost to haunt the other if anything ever happens to one of us. We compliment each others' work too well to give it up.
HC: Jen and Sylvia Soska, thank you very much
Jen and Sylvia: Thank you so much for chatting with us!
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