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Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
By James Whittington, Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routing for them.

HC: Where did the idea for the movie come from and what was your writing process between the three of you like?

MS: It originated with my friend Ed and I wanting to do something creepy with identity. I also was inspired by Seconds and the head scratching format of Jacob's Ladder. The crazy thing about the film is now with Covid and mask wearing and all that, the movie really takes on a whole other relatability, I think. Writing between the three of us was basically passing the script back and forth over a number of months and trying to spin things. It wasn't always easy, especially with a puzzled story like this, where there are a number of competing narratives going all at once, and none all that clear!

HC: Did you research any of the science mentioned?

MS: Absolutely. It's fascinating to discover that full face transplants are real and they really happen. Reading about these case studies certainly informed the story and made things more grounded. I can't imagine what it must be like for everyone involved.

HC: Was it written with a cast in mind?

MS: Not really - but I think we got very lucky, especially with Alex.

HC: The structure to the movie is complex but revels itself in the final reel, was this hard to get right?

MS: Did we get it right? I'm still wondering about that! But seriously it feels great when someone gets it, or at least gets their own version of getting it and walks away feeling that we've come full circle. It's a bit of a steep rabbit hole to climb out of, but I hope we managed to do it.

HC: Was it all shot on location?

MS: Yes, all in Charleston, SC.

HC: The score plays an incredibly important part to the film, was there any pieces you couldn't get to use?

MS: Thanks. In the end I'm really happy with how the score helps the atmosphere and plays beautifully with some of the emotional stuff. This was a tricky one to score and we didn't have a lot of resources. Sometimes when one is pressed against the wall with time and money, you actually find these limitations land perfectly.

HC: It plays like David Cronenberg was given a Twilight Zone episode; would you agree?

MS: My nipples are getting hard. What a compliment, thank you!

HC: The effects are superb, did they eat away much of the budget?

MS: Well yes, we actually had to raise a little more money after we wrapped for the VFX. We decided to augment the makeup with some digital work on his face - which meant EVERY SHOT of his face. So we ended up doing like 400 or more digital effects. We had a model made that tracked his face as it moved, and we just slightly pushed and pulled things as the movie progresses. It was incredibly time consuming. And sometimes so subtle, producers wondered why we were even bothering, but I think in the end, that subtle difference, almost unconsciously, makes a big emotion difference. But I wanted his face to tell its own story. That was really important to me. And with a 20-day shoot, you can't spend all day in makeup, so the post digital work allowed me to play arounds with that.

HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?

MS: I recently shot a non-genre movie, "The Royal" which is currently finishing, and have a couple of sci-fi and horror projects being set up. Hopefully I can get one of them going early next year.

HC: Marcel Sarmiento, thank you very much.

MS: Thank you for watching and I really appreciate your kind words!


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