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Interview with Phillip G. Carroll Jr. writer and director of The Honeymoon Phase
By James Whittington, Saturday 29th August 2020
Honeymoon Phase-poster

More new talent comes to FrightFest 2020, this time its a husband and wife team Phillip G. Carroll Jr and Chloe Carroll. Here, Phillip describes how this intense and emotional, psychological movie came about.

HC: Where did the idea for The Honeymoon Phase come from?

PC: My wife, actress Chloe Carroll (Eve), and I got married in March 2016. We wanted our first feature film to be a marriage of both of our creative loves. I love sci-fi, thrillers, and drama films and Chloe is a horror nut. We thought a psychological thriller would be the perfect blend of both of us to create our first film baby together! We were lying in bed one night, trying to come up with a concept within that genre when I turned to her and said, "What if you woke up and I wasn't the man you thought I was?" That creepy anxiety was the genesis for The Honeymoon Phase.

HC: Did it take long to get the script correct and was it written with a cast in mind?

PC: In 2016, I started outlining the script in my free time after work. I began writing it full time in January 2017 - with the promise to Chloe that the first draft would be her 1-year anniversary gift... I work best under pressure. I wrote the character of Eve for her. I also wrote the character of The Director with Francois Chau as a reference, never dreaming he'd actually accept the role! I'm the biggest fan of LOST in the world and always wanted to work with him. Sometimes dreams do come true!

HC: It looks very polished with some really cool visuals, is that where a big chunk of the budget go?

PC: Thank you! We had an incredible creative team, many of whom this was their first feature! But believe it or not, the single largest line item was... food. If you don't have a well-fed crew, you have nothing. In terms of the world design, we rented a house on Airbnb that perfectly fit the world we were trying to create. Our art team led by Dave Zhou really had their work cut out for them on creating a near future look on a shoestring budget. He was able to get many of the lab-type equipment for free from the hospital we shot at. They had old stuff lying around in an abandoned wing of their campus. We also had a ton of visual effects shots for a movie of our size. Our VFX team led by David De Leon elevated the film to a whole other level. I'm forever grateful to the magic our team was able to pull off. They truly made our indie film look like a Hollywood-sized production.

HC: This is your first feature, how nervous were you on the first day on set?

PC: My natural baseline is anxious, but the ironic thing is I didn't have time to be nervous! I just kept running through my head everything I had to accomplish that day. We were on a soundstage the first day of our shoot, and I'll never forget the brief moment I took to be by myself on that quiet stage, surrounded by our infinity wall, thinking to myself... "this is it... I'm living my dream." The one moment I was a bit nervous was when Francois walked on set that first day. He just had such a Hollywood veteran presence to him. Everything became incredibly real in that moment. But you just take a breath and realize, he's here for the same reason you are - to tell a story.

HC: Did Chloe Carroll and Jim Schubin who play Eve and Tom have much rehearsal time as they seem so natural as a couple?

PC: Yes. When we were casting Tom, something that was important to me was to cast an actor who was married. I wanted someone who knew the ins and outs of young love, someone who lived through their own honeymoon phase. I spent around 5 days leading up to the movie, working with Jim and Chloe to build their relationship. We'd meet once a week in the office of our EP to block the scenes using office furniture. I'd film the rehearsals on my iPhone so that we basically had a no-budget iPhone version of the movie to use as reference on set. Those rehearsals were incredibly important in building trust with each other.

HC: Was there a time during production that you lost your confidence or thought you'd taken on too much?

PC: During the climactic scene with Tom and Eve, where Eve is faced with the ultimate choice, there was a moment where nothing was working and I had to decide how to save the movie. I rewrote the scene the night before after talking it through with Chloe, Jim, and some of the crew. There was a key beat missing in the original version of the scene that was discovered through conversation with them. The scene was so much better for it. The only problem was I had a few hours to rewrite it before driving an hour to set before dawn. I got 2 hours of sleep before being whisked away into the car to be taken to set. And then... nothing was working. The Ronin we rented and shot listed for was not cooperating, and even interrupting Jim and Chloe's tragic performances. We made it to lunch and I pulled Chloe aside to tell her, "I don't think we have a movie here. We have to do something. This scene IS the movie and we don't have a film without it." We took a breath, and then I went to our incredible AD Ben Samuels. He carved out an hour for us to chuck the Ronin and go handheld, running on pure adrenaline to reshoot THE ENTIRE SCENE. But that hour is what I'm the proudest of from the entire film production. Everyone came together to create what is now my favorite scene in the movie.

HC: What lessons did you learn about directing whilst making this movie?

PC: I learned that when things are going wrong, take a breath, clear your head, and then come together with your cast and crew to find a solution and make your movie.

HC: It plays like a mature episode of The Twilight Zone, would you agree?

PC: Yes! Our reference for the film was actually Black Mirror, which is basically a sci-fi Twilight Zone. We pitched the movie as a feature length episode of Black Mirror.

HC: What is it like showing a movie at a "virtual festival"?

PC: Though we're sad we can't experience the film in person with everyone, we're so excited to be making our U.K. premiere! Chloe's from the U.K. so we're truly honored to be premiere our movie at the country's biggest horror festival!

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

PC: I've used my time in quarantine to write my second feature, a coming of age movie I've been toying away with in the back of my head since 2014 - Stuck in Our Heads. When her anxiety personifies itself as an invisible friend, a high school senior teams up with a panic-ridden homeless man to find the solution to their disorders and create the ultimate senior project. Actually, fun Easter egg, the book that Tom is writing is a hint to my second feature film. I'm hoping to use The Honeymoon Phase as a jumping off point to get this passion project off the ground. If anyone wants to reach out to let me know what they think of The Honeymoon Phase, I'm on Twitter @PhilCarrollJr. I love chatting with other film lovers! If you like the film, please leave us a review and share your thoughts on social media. For a low budget film of our size, shares are the difference between success and failure. I hope you enjoy The Honeymoon Phase!

HC: Phillip G. Carroll Jr. thank you very much.

PC: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today!


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