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Exclusive Interview With Infestation Director Kyle Rankin
By James Whittington, Thursday 20th August 2009
One of the most anticipated movies of FrightFest 2009 is Kyle Rankin’s Infestation. The movie which is all about a giant insect invasion is an amazing piece (I know as I’ve had the privilege of seeing it already!) so we thought we’d hunt him down and and bug him (ha ha) for some answers.   ZH: How did you get into the movie business?   KR: Am I in it? Huh, guess so. Looks different than I thought it would. It’s still a lot of work... what’s up with THAT!? I’m self taught; started making films and videos around the age of 14. I come from the independent world, where you hit up everyone you meet to invest in your pictures. My big break came in 2003 when I submitted two clips from two short films I’d made with fellow-filmmaker Efram Potelle. We ended up besting 8,000 other hopefuls to win Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Project Greenlight... this meant we co-directed The Battle Of Shaker Heights with Shia LaBeouf while camera crews followed us around for a 13 episode HBO series.   ZH: Was Reindeer Games your first stab at professional writing/directing/acting etc?
KR: Yes and no. Yes because I was 23 at the time and had the lead role in a feature film I’d co-written and co-produced... no, because it’s probably not the same Reindeer Games you’re thinking of! I made an independent film on 16mm in Portland, Maine in 1996... about two years later, a major theatrical release starring Ben Affleck (ironic, given our later Greenlight connection) was released with the same name. MY Reindeer Games was released in North America last year under the new title The Girl In The Basement, so I’m happy it's finally seen the light of day. In it, I play a man named Alec who has a bad date with a woman he’s in love with, and decides to trap her in his basement for several days. Making it was an amazing learning experience, my own private film school. I’m still very proud of it.   ZH: You seem a pretty “hands on” person, do you like being in control of the projects you’re involved with?
KR: For me, being in control is the ONLY way to be involved in a project. I like having no one else to blame but myself.   ZH: Do you have a favourite role when creating a movie?
KR: I always thought I’d act... then I realized how fun and fulfilling directing is. My career goal is to be an Auteur, to write (or at least re-write) all the films I direct (so they have my personal stamp).   ZH: Let’s talk about your latest project, Infestation, where did that idea come from?
KR: From an image I had years ago of a man waking up in a big cocoon, having no idea how he got there. When I saw the beginning of 28 Days Later and the guy wakes up in a hospital I thought, "Damn, I’ve been beaten to it" Then I realized it’s an oft-used idea among Sci-Fi and fantasy films (like Day Of The Triffids) So, a lot of what I do starts with a picture or an idea for one key scene... then I expand things to see if there’s something compelling there.   ZH: Did any of the other classic creature features from the 1950's inspire you at all?
KR: I’m more a fan of the Post-Apocalyptic genre: Road Warrior, A Boy And His Dog, and Hell Comes To Frogtown. If a film starts with a lone figure stumbling across a desolate landscape (maybe with a ruined city behind them), I’m hooked. Also, giant insects hadn’t been exploited in cinema in a while... oh, and I was certainly effected by the beginning of the 1954 film Them! where two cops find the a mute girl stumbling through the desert. We find out later she’s not speaking because she saw her parents eaten by huge ants!   ZH: Did the script take long to polish off and was it hard balancing the horror and the humour elements?
KR: I did a dozen rewrites or so on the script, not counting tweaks here and there. I did find it hard to balance the horror and comedy, but I also believe we don’t live our lives in genres... so why do we expect our films to be? Haven’t we all been to a serious engagement, like church... or even a funeral... and ended up laughing at something (which is very close to crying)? Our lives are messy and complicated, so I try my best to write that way. What’s working against me is the that after a hard day, people would like to know what they’re getting when they pop in a DVD... I can’t blame them for that. SO, in trying to please both masters, I feel it’s my job to straddle genres while at the same time being true to them.   ZH: How did you go about casting?
KR: We worked with a casting director in Los Angeles named Annie McCarthy (and her company Engine). It was several months of appointments and meetings to find the right people. There’s a lot of talented actors in LA, but casting an ensemble film is a puzzle -- all the parts need to fit together. There’re often several people that could play each role, but it’s about getting a whole group assembled and how they all look and play off one another.   ZH: Talking of the cast they really do handle the premise perfectly without turning the movie into a farce, did any of them over do the comedy?
KR: I can’t recall a time when anyone overdid it. That said, I often find myself telling the actors to make it smaller while I’m on set. This isn’t because they’re hitting the comedic parts per se... but because whatever they’re doing is being pushed too hard. Many actors have a theatre background, and they’ve been taught to play their performance to the back of the house... film is about being subtle and letting the camera do the work. Also, the only kind of comedy I don’t care for is “camp” I don’t enjoy watching something that’s supposed to be funny, and you can FEEL the actors thinking they’re funny while doing it. I like comedy that comes from circumstance and character and the reality of the moment.   ZH: Was it a difficult shoot bearing in mind it has a lot of effects shots?
KR: The hardest thing was that I wrote a lot of action... and action takes twice as long to shoot as a regular scene. So, the big set pieces with the bugs took a VERY long time... and more often than not I felt rushed and left wishing I had another few weeks.   ZH: The film does look amazing, did you have a large budget?
KR: By industry standards, no. We had under 5 million... which probably sounds like a lot to independent filmmakers, but considering we had 265 VFX shots, this is really stretching things. For the money we had, I’m very impressed with the quality of the effects... both practical and digital. Both teams did an amazing job!   ZH: The movie is getting its World Premiere at FrightFest, how do you think the UK audience will react to the movie?
KR: Oh, man. I hope they like it. Naively, I think a UK audience will appreciate the story’s subtleties and random humour more... but I don’t know. I make films so people can enjoy them, so that’s all I truly hope for. I’m really looking forward to hearing some UK reactions!   ZH: Would you consider Infestation 2?
KR: If ever the day comes when the film’s been enjoyed and recouped its budget and there’s a cry for more... I’d love to make another. There’s more I’d love to do with these characters... more challenges I’d like them to face. And plus I already have a cool title: Infestation 2: Buzzkill.   ZH: Kyle Rankin, thank you very much.
KR: My pleasure. Thanks to you for your interest.

   
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