LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Vendetta
By James Whittington, Thursday 19th March 2020 Vengeance Season on Horror contains the UK TV premiere of Vendetta, the superb all-male maelstrom of mayhem from Jen and Sylvia Soska. We chatted to these incredible talented creatives about this action-packed thriller and what they have planned for the future.
HC: Have you always been wrestling fans and if so, when growing up, who were your faves?
Sylvia: We got introduced to wrestling during the epic Kane brother storyline during the Undertaker and Heartbreak Kid feud that led to the first ever Hell in a Cell. I mean after that kind of an introduction; how doesn't the magic of wrestling have your heart for the rest of your life? If it isn't obvious, I'm a Shawn Michaels fan.
Jen: Undertaker is, was, and will always be my man. I love the Undertaker. I loved the theatrical, gimmick type super stars. Undertaker, Kane, any character played by Mick Foley, and now I'm big time into Bray Wyatt. I love everything he's been doing. I've always wished they'd eventually have a female superstar like that. One day...
HC: When did you first hear about the film, Vendetta?
Sylvia: We had a very successful union with Lionsgate and WWE Studios with our Glenn 'Kane' Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle, and Kaj Erik-Eriksen starring See No Evil 2. They were doing an action series called the action six pack, and Vendetta was to be the first of those size films. We were first pick for it even though it was our first action film, all of our films have had some of the best stunt people in the world working on it, this was the natural next step.
Jen: Immediately after See No Evil 2. WWE studios and Lionsgate were both very happy with us and the film was very successful. They wanted to find something new for us and we'd been wanting to do an action movie for some time. An action movie is just a horror movie where you don't care about who dies, you're more cheering for the hero to kick everyone's ass. Lionsgate was starting off their action six pack with WWE studios and they wanted to start strong so we were called in.
HC: You've got a cool cast including Dean Cain and Big Show, two very different people with presumably very different approaches to acting. How much input did they have into their characters?
Sylvia: It's funny that you should say that because they are both seasoned vets in their own respects with a history in sports with great senses of humor and ridiculously dedicated work ethics. It was such a dream come true for a director to have that kind of talent to be the engine to tell this revenge story, but also to have two actors who are so into what you're creating that they completely commit to bringing these larger than life characters to the screen.
Jen: You'd be surprised. Both Dean and Paul are incredibly disciplined and dedicated performers. Both went above and beyond for this film. WWE really limits the creative input from their superstars who are all naturally very creative people so it was important for us to give Big Show especially room to play. His tattoo, "Not To Be F****d With" (or for the kiddies, "Not To Be Fooled With") shown across his chest as the letters N T B F W were his idea. It actually looked so great on there I had hoped he'd get it tattooed on. He still might, ha ha. Dean was 100% down to be a bad guy. His character, Mason Danvers, is such a good guy at the start of the film, and then he loses everything. Dean was ready to get dark. Good guys play wonderful badasses.
HC: It has a traditional plot about a cop out for revenge but has a cool twist, do you think it's that which separates it from other similar themed movies?
Sylvia: It's funny because we really just look at it as The Punisher vs The Kingpin in prison. It's even a set up that has been done in the comics, but you add these delicious dark moments and now you have something that sticks in your memory.
Jen: It's our style. It's our version of a Punisher movie with Dean as Frank Castle and Big Show as the Kingpin. For such a dark, violent film, it's a lot of fun. It's part Punisher, part I Saw The Devil. The hero becomes a killer by the end. If you saw the prequel to Vendetta (not yet made), you'd see everything Big Show went through to become who he is and you'd be on his side. You just happen to catch up with the story with Mason/Dean, so you're on his side. Good and bad is all very relative and the good guys and bad guys often have those lines get fuzzy.
HC: Where was the movie shot?
Sylvia: Same place as See No Evil 2 if you'd believe it. The partially open, partially open for film location rental, Riverside Psychiatric Hospital.
Jen: A partial closed haunted asylum. Where else?
HC: There are some amazing fight scenes, how difficult was it to choreograph those?
Sylvia: We have been blessed with being able to work with the very best in the business when it comes to stunts. On SNE2, Kimani Smith was our stunt coordinator who we brought back for Vendetta. He brought on Dan Rizzuto as our fight coordinator. We hired stunt actors and actors with fighting experience so we could keep the action level high and looking realistic.
Jen: Very and also incredibly easy. Kimani Smith and Dan Rizzuto, both filmmakers themselves as well, headed up our stunt and fight choreography. They trained hard. Our stunt team was superb. Uki, who did the shower fight against Dean, is a good friend and I'd been dying to work with him for ages. I'm really so proud of our entire team. An action movie shot in only 15 days. That's insane. That takes incredible talent and an unstoppable team.
HC: Did you approach the movie differently to your first few movies as its classed as a different genre to those?
Sylvia: It's astonishing how much work Jen and I can get done on a production. Every film up until this point, was shot in 15 days, Vendetta was no exception. We had a challenging box to work within, but the cast and the crew are our army who killed it. We prepared a lot and made smart calls when those plans fell through. We shot very very fast.
Jen: We spilt up to pick up pieces. I'd go back to shoot some inserts with a B unit or add more practical blood some place. We had to move fast and be very decisive. We never get pick up days or reshoots. Once the train has left the station, there's no turning back.
HC: It's got quite a soundtrack; were there any tracks you couldn't get to use?
Sylvia: We got to reteam with the fabulous Newton Brothers who did the music on See No Evil 2 and have been doing the music for Mike Flanagan for years. LOVE those talented gentlemen. Complete class acts.
Jen: Yes. There was an alternative opening credit sequence we shot and sound tracked by Kevvy that we really loved. It was a beautiful way to set the tone of the film before smashing into cityscapes, but we lost that battle. I still have it saved away somewhere. The credits were shots on black of Dean and Big Show showing how they're the same, even at the start.
HC: As you've said. this was your second movie for WWE would you do another, and which wrestler would you like to work with?
Sylvia: We've been trying to make a film with Bray Wyatt for years now! We are going to keep trying. We're writing an action buddy comedy for Phil Brooks - loved working with him on Rabid. The guy is a total movie star.
Jen: The artist formerly known as Goldust, Dustin Rhodes. I'd love to work with Nattie, too. It would be cool to work with Undertaker, and Mick Foley, and Steve Austin, too. Oh, and the Miz and Mrs Miz are so sweet. There will always be a place for a wrestler or two in our films. They're just the most dedicated performers.
HC: Do you still get a buzz when you see your names on screen?
Sylvia: I feel like we're fans first and filmmakers second, so it's always a surreal humbling and cool moment to see how we're a part of the things we love now.
Jen: Always. It's the girlhood dream fulfilled. I'm always gonna be a fan first. Getting to make movies for fellow fans fills me with so much pride. It's a huge honour and I'm grateful for every opportunity.
HC: This is your third movie to appear on the Horror Channel and it's a UK TV premiere, you must be happy with that?
Sylvia: You have absolutely spoiled us since our beginning, and we couldn't be more grateful for the foundation you've given us to build a career on! May all our films play on the glorious Horror Channel for all time!
Jen: Yes! We LOVE the Horror Channel and its viewers! Horror Channel has been the first place to really support us and believe in us like no other. We do play favourites and the Horror Channel is it. Thank you for having us!
HC: So, what are you working on next?
Sylvia: Our own graphic novel that we;ve been playing with since we were kids. There's a really cool partner that we would be honoured to collaborate with on that we're hoping we can connect with. There's a really wild film that isn't a script from us, but it's a new side of us that we would love to share with audiences.
Jen: We're making BOB right now. We're casting and it's been a long journey on that one. We're working with Martin Katz (who's produced David Cronenberg's most recent films) and Karen Wookey of Prospero Pictures. Finally, the right team for this film that we've been trying to get made since American Mary. Our long-time fans will be over the moon to know BOB is finally happening. It's an original script from us about trauma and the monsters we carry with us from our most nightmarish survival stories.
HC: Jen and Sylvia, thank you very much
Vendetta is showing on Horror April 4th as part of Vengeance Season.
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