Q: Please tell my readers about your short film “Heartless”.
Kevin: Sure thing. Heartless is my directorial debut. It’s a contemporary take on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, where an overlooked exec is trying to complete a marketing presentation while a horrific secret eats away at her conscience. We threw in an American Psycho vibe, a lot of blood f/x and some over the top dark humor. It’s a really fun, really bloody, updating of the original story. We had a blast making it.
Q: The “modern take” you’ve chosen aerates an interesting spin on this old favorite. How did you come up with this fabulous idea?
Kevin: Thank you so much for the compliments. I was actually on another shoot in a friend’s house (coincidentally, the house where we ended up shooting the flashback scenes in “Heartless”) and the lead actress and sound guy were discussing Poe (which stories they like best, etc). My favorite is “The Tell-Tale Heart” so, on the way home, I got this scene in my head, which became the opening shot in the film – an innocent looking exec staring in to a mirror getting ready to do a presentation, having done some really horrible things the night before. The idea sprang from that initial image. I just loved the conflict between her outward appearance and the darkness that she’s attempting to hide. I felt that was a lot of stuff for an actress, especially one as talented as Stacy Snyder, to play with. Setting it in a modern, cutthroat corporate atmosphere allowed me to do a couple things. First, I could have a relatable protagonist in the oft-ignored rising exec Shelby. Second, with the aggression forced on her by her co-workers, I could realistically have her remember things that she did that she didn’t necessarily want to revisit. With those things established, I could really go deep into the heart, so to speak, of Poe’s original piece.
Q: What was your favorite part of making this film? Least favorite?
Kevin: My favorite part? So many favorites. I’ll break it down to on-set faves and favorites on the festival trail. My favorite part in the making of the film was when the blood effects worked out. For a 10 ½ minute short to have 7 blood effects in it, well, that’s a bold undertaking. But I had such pros around me and when those effects worked on set, it was so cool. There was an effect in the office that was kind of the centerpiece of the office-related gore (it involves a severed limb), and I remember the entire cast/crew standing in the hallways surrounding the office watching, just to see how it would turn out. That was so exciting. Then, on the first day at the house, both actresses got ovations from the crew for their work in the two most bloody sequences. Those were the biggest highlights of a shoot full of them. As for my least favorite part… I’d say the logistics of shooting in an all-glass office atmosphere. It was a challenge because everything we shot facing the 3 male execs we had to shoot during the day so there was always a ticking clock. Luckily, those dudes are pros and we got it covered, but it was kind of tough logistically from time to time.
As for my favorite part after filming, it would have to be the audience reactions in the screenings so far. It’s always something different that people respond to. I’ve heard exclamations of “oh God, no!” during one screenings to another audience member shouting “Yes!” in the goriest parts during another. Then there were the 4-6 people that walked out in our first screening because it was a bit much (it wasn’t a horror fest so I’m not sure they were ready for the bloodiness). But, in that same fest, a family came up to us afterward and their daughter (prob 12-13 years old) said that she absolutely LOVED it and the “Tell-Tale Heart” was one of her favorite stories. Moments like that are so cool, so yeah, I’d say audience interaction after screenings has been a very special part of it all.
Jen: For me the least favorite it was mostly making sure the wardrobe was ready and there wouldn’t be any issues with continuity--needing to prep multiples of the same outfit is so important but ironing is soooooo boring hehe. Also bloody bags of clothes are not something I’m used to handling. I was kinda hoping I would run into someone while taking those down to the dumpster after the shoot tho. I adore everything else about filmmaking—the pre-pro hunt for the perfect wardrobe and set design, being on set with old friends and making new ones, and watching the magic of turning a written work into a visual one. That process fascinates me. I love to see how each individual person adds their stamp to it, making it a truly unique product that could only exist from that particular group of people.
Q: Were there any major challenges to overcome in order to complete this project?Kevin: Just getting it all shot. Which, I’m proud to say, we got all the scenes covered with no pick-ups necessary. But 11 pages in 3 days with 7 blood effects thrown in there was a bit daunting. But I surrounded myself with badasses – from Mike Testin on camera to the uber talented actors to Josh and Sierra Russell on blood f/x to Ross Scharphorn guiding us on the various stunts – so it all worked out.
Jen: For me it was trying to find the wardrobe as inexpensively as possible without sacrificing quality. We didn’t want the wardrobe to stand out and distract from the tale Kevin was weaving. It had to look super professional so it could hold up to his incredible writing—so that took many, many, many trips to H&M. I think I may be banned from that store now ;)
Kevin: She had racks of clothes, ready to go.
Jen: So many. Well, we had to get multiples of each outfit because we didn’t know how many takes we would need with all the blood.
Kevin: Lots of returns after the shoot. Thank you H&M. Haha.
Q: What other works have you done or been involved in?
Kevin: We’ve been involved on the production end on several shorts now, most notably Matt Mercer’s horror short, “Feeding Time” and Eric Kleifield’s sci-fi short “Mainline” (which just got accepted to this year’s Cinepocalypse Film Fest in Chicago). The first project I produced was a short I wrote and Matt Mercer directed, called “Play Violet for Me”. It’s a nifty, stylistic noir film that I’m really proud of. It’s available on Youtube and Vimeo if anyone wants to check it out. “Feeding Time” is available on Youtube, as well.
Jen: I mostly do marketing for our work but also help out on set when friends need it—pretty much doing whatever needs to be done—making coffee, unloading and loading equipment and craft services, running errands. For our films I was the production designer and wardrobe for “Play Violet for Me,” and wardrobe on “Heartless.”
Q: What are you currently working on?
Kevin: I’m currently completing a horror script – a survival feature revolving around an estranged couple working to get their stuff together while the world around them is falling apart. It should be done in a few weeks and I’ll start getting the cast/crew together after that. I’m hoping to start filming on that one next year. I also have a larger budget sci-fi project. I optioned the script to a production company a couple months ago and they’re putting the packaging together for that one. I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve written. As for the rest of the year, I have another larger budget sci-fi and a medium budget horror that I’m hoping to get completed by the end of the year.
Jen: I’m busy designing our new website: www.heartlessmovie.com and working on social media strategies for the film. In addition, I manage our company website and have websites ready to go for all his future projects.
Q: Tell us about being on the 2018 Film Festival circuit. What is that like?
Kevin: It’s awesome. I love film fests. First off, you get to see your film on a theater screen instead of your laptop. It’s such an amazing experience. There’s nothing like watching your film with a group of strangers and hearing them react to different moments. I’ll never get tired of it. Then, with festivals, you get to meet other filmmakers and audiences. There’s really nothing like it. I love it when people come up to me afterward and want to talk about my movie. How cool is that? It’s really a one of a kind experience. And the festival programmers are always super cool. So dedicated and driven by their love of film and filmmakers. It’s always inspiring going to fests and meeting this tremendous variety of people brought together by their love of one thing – film. It’s been great so far. We’ve played some really cool fests and I can’t wait to see what we play next!
Jen: It’s been an absolute blast!! I love going to festivals, meeting the other filmmakers and getting to see the latest incredible indie films. I also dig the red carpets ;) It’s been a special treat to screen at festivals that we went to for “Feeding Time” and “Play Violet for Me” and go back again with this project. It’s like a reunion of sorts with the chance to meet new friends too. I hope there’s lots more in store for “Heartless!”
Q: What are the ups and downs of working as a husband and wife team?
Kevin: None. There are no downs. It’s all ups. Haha.
Jen: Well, we’ve been married quite a few years (actually 21 this June 28th) and we just recently decided to combine forces to create film with Sunshine Boy Productions. And it really is as simple as that for us. We’ve always helped each other out with each other’s endeavors, whether it’s Kevin running the last 5 miles of my first marathon to help get me through, or when I helped find the wardrobe for our first short, Play Violet for Me. We both seem to know what the other one needs and want to help make that happen. Fortunately, our skill set and interests seem to be complimentary and don’t overlap much—so there’s not much of a push and pull when a decision needs to be made. I always thought I’d be on the sidelines of his career, going to watch his films but not able to contribute in any meaningful way, then we made our first short and I was hooked. Listening to incredible professionals act out my husband’s writing was surreal and such a treat. I couldn’t wait to get back on set with his films and the collaborative nature of our relationship makes it truly special for me to be a part of it.
Kevin: Yeah, I think we know what to expect from each other and we definitely know what we like to do in the company. Jen loves marketing. I don’t. I love writing. Jen? Not so much.
But we both love creating films and bringing these stories to life, so we find a middle ground with all of it. Jen loves creating impact on the marketing side, getting people interested in what we’re doing, and supporting the artists behind the films we’ve made so far. I do my best to create the impact with the stories or the productions themselves. On the whole, I think we have a cool mix of skills that don’t really branch into the other person’s realm, so there have definitely been more ups than downs. I’m looking forward to our next project to see what else we can do together.
Q: What advice would you like to share with other independent, or perhaps even novice, filmmakers?
Jen: Keep working, keep learning, keep helping other filmmakers out. You’ll find your group and hopefully keep doing it forever :)
Kevin: Just do it. Plain and simple. Whether you’re an indie filmmaker deciding to direct your first film or write your first thing or take the next big plunge, just do it. If you’re someone who’s never made a film and you’re on the fence, well, you can stay on the fence forever or you can just do it. If you look at it, we’re in a wonderful time in film. You can go out and film something (maybe even something worthy of Sundance) on your phone. So, why not? I can’t express how much it meant to be on the set of “Play Violet for Me”, seeing these awesome actors bringing my words to life. It changed my life. But the change happened when I decided to write it in the first place. For “Heartless” I remember laying on my living room floor a week before we started shooting, asking my wife, “what have I done to myself.” Two weeks later, I’ve directed my first film and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. You never know what you’re gonna be good at or what’s gonna resonate with you until you take that shot. Always be open to where your life can go. That’s my advice. Just do it.
From The Horror Report: A big, HUGE thank you to these two wonderful people. Not only for taking the time to do this interview but, also for their wonderful creation. I am so excited to see what comes next! What a great group of people working on this film. They have obviously found a team that works (in more ways than one). I wish them ALL nothing but the best and profound success!!!