Sunday, September 30, 2012

Taliesin Meets… …Mark Devendorf and Mauricio Chernovetzky

T_ttlg: Hi Mark and Mauricio, welcome to Taliesin Meets the Vampires.

What inspired you to look to making a vampire movie and more specifically one based on Carmilla?

MC: When we first decided to team up and make our debut feature, we didn’t set out to make a vampire film, we just wanted to make a compelling film. But "Carmilla" really captivated us. And when we saw the movies based off of it (Vampiros Lesbos), we realized the aspects that most interested us about the novella had never been put on screen: the teenage romantic obsession with death, the atmosphere, the parasitic relationship between the two girls.

MD: When we started working on the script, we were told several times, “don’t do vampire films, no one sees vampire films.” In fact, someone at HBO said this to us, a couple of years before True Blood came out.

T_ttlg: Where you a fan of the LeFanu story before embarking on this project?

Mark Devendorf
MD: I’m a bit of an antiquarian, so I enjoy reading bygone authors, like Arthur Machen, M.R. James, and Sheridan Le Fanu. Mauricio and I had been looking for a project to do together. We’d pass short stories back and forth, to see if there was mutual interest. We couldn’t find the right project until I read “Carmilla.” I passed it to Mauricio, who was intrigued as well. That started the conversation that led to the research, the script, raising the money, and ultimately the film.

T_ttlg: When was the decision made to base this in a contemporary setting rather than the period setting of the story?

MD: We set it in 1989 for a few reasons. 1. It feels a little pre-modern, but is still hovering at the edges of everyone’s memories. 2. That was when we were teenagers. 3. We thought journeying behind the Iron Curtain would make the film more compelling.

Mauricio Chernovetzky
MC: Setting it behind the Iron Curtain gave us a chance to explore the atmosphere of an authoritarian world on the brink of collapse. But we also wanted to capture a story that had a timeless quality to it. Our main location, the mysterious Schlossberger Castle provided that environment. Its decaying gothic atmosphere helped us tell the story of "Carmilla" as a recurring phenomenon, a cyclical myth playing itself out at that specific moment in time.

T_ttlg: I understand you researched the background and found information that Carmilla was based on a reported event. Could you tell us about that?

MD: "Carmilla" was based on a couple of recorded incidents that took places in the 18th and 19th Century (click here and here). Taking this as starting point, we made remarkable discovery: "Vampirism" is real!

MC: Let us clarify, "vampires," are not real, but the phenomena of "vampirism," is real

suicide clusters
T_ttlg: Your research tied suicide with vampirism… more specifically mass suicides. Could you tell us more about that?

MC: Yes, what Mark and I realized was that Vampirism not only occurred in the past, but it still happening today. Sociologists and psychologists have simply given it a more scientific name: "Suicide Clusters."

MD: These cases all follow a similar pattern: In a small community or town, one person dies or commits suicide. Soon another person, usually a friend or relative is haunted by the dead person until they fall ill or kill themselves. Soon, then the "infection" spreads until dozens are dead. Barring communicable diseases, the only explanation pre-modern villagers had was the supernatural notion they called "Vampirism."

MC: Modern psychology attempted to wipe these supernatural explanations away, supplanting them with new names and new theories. Yet, this same exact phenomenon is still occurring today. In Wales, a few years back one teenager killed herself, then 18 followed, often hanging themselves from the same tree as the original girl. (click here)

MD: And just recently, Australia has been experiencing an inexplicable wave of suicides. (click here)

MC: What's really remarkable is that psychologist still can't really explain the cause of suicide clusters, so it in a way, they've just changed the name, but have done little to discover the root problem. The mystery remains.

film still
MD: When we realized no one else put this together, it gave us another reason to make the film.

T_ttlg: So in your film the vampire tries to push the victim towards suicide. Do they prey on their victims in any other way?

MC: Carmilla turns out to be a very sophisticated seductress. She will resort to an all out psychological warfare to get Lara to join her. And this is what STYRIA is ultimately about; it depicts the nightmare that threatens to consume Lara Hill.

T_ttlg: I know that Mark has shot documentaries in the past, are there any plans to make a documentary about what you found in your research at any point?

MD: Both of us have a background in documentary. Part of me is really tempted to explore this subject further, perhaps in a documentary. But I want to finish Styria first.

inside the castle
T_ttlg: The castle the film used as the primary location looks amazing, can you tell us about the castle and how you came to find it?

MD: We searched as much as we could remotely, looking at different castles online and in books. Then we traveled to Poland, Austria, and Hungary. In Hungary, we spent a long weekend just driving to 10 different castles. Most of the places we visited were either in too good of shape, or completely in ruins. Then we saw Schlossberger Castle in the small town of Tura, about 45 minutes outside of Budapest and we were blown away! It was this amazing piece of crumbling architecture, which is exactly what we wanted. The place was perfect!

T_ttlg: It sounded very much as though the castle is as much a character as the people in the film.

MC: When you spend time in this castle, you get the sense that the architect had gone mad. There are these spiraling stone stairs that lead into the castle’s basement, which is laid out like a labyrinth. There is so much mystery to the place, it’s palpable.

T_ttlg: I’m a big fan of Stephen Rae, how was he to work with?

Stephen Rae
MD: Stephen Rea had all the qualities we wanted for Lara’s father. He's a great actor, with a strong on screen presence. He was very particular about his character’s outfits. He also wanted all of his dialogue and actions to feel real. This gives the film a great deal of naturalism. Also, his being so well regarded amongst actors meant that all the other actors wanted to step up their game.

MC: Yes, Stephen helped raise the stakes for everyone else. I think his presence inspired the rest of the cast. He was a great asset for the film. Since at it's core Styria tells the of the intense and fractured relationship between two teenage girls, the soul of the film rests on Eleanor Tomlinson and Julia Pietrucha, who both gave absolutely wonderful performances.

T_ttlg: Are there any on-set anecdotes you’d wish to share with us?

MD: On set was a controlled kind of chaos, with us trying to get as much quality out of the little money we had everyday. It was really an international set, we had a Hungarian, Polish, American & Mexican crew with an Irish, English, Hungarian & Polish cast. We heard horror stories of runaway budgets, but our crew worked very hard in cold, sleet, and snow.

Julia Pietrucha
MC: Just as we were securing our main locations, we found out that Angelina Jolie's film crew wanted to shoot in our castle. This pushed our start date back a week, which was a concern because winter was fast approaching. And with two more days left to shoot, six inches of snow fell in one day. We did our best to dig out sets and shoot as much as we could, but for the car accident scene that introduces Carmilla, we had to wait a year, and then shoot it in Poland.

MD: The locals, many of whom were extras were an amazing group. Everyone was very friendly. On our one day off a week, when we got breakfast & coffee from the town market, one man stumbled up to us, drunk, at 9am, demanding to be in the film, or he would kill himself. We were a little worried at first, but we were told that he'd been threatening to kill himself everyday for the past 40 years.

Eleanor Tomlinson
T_ttlg: You are currently running a kickstarter pledge to finish the film, could you tell us a little about that, what the money would go towards and what they’d get in return?

MC: The film is locked, but we are doing a kickstarter so that we can finish a few things, namely, sound design, score, vfx, color correction and music rights.

MD: Yes. Music rights are very expensive! We feel strongly about connecting the 80s goth sound to the gothic storyline, so hopefully we can keep that vision alive.

MC: All of the pledge categories and gifts are listed on our kickstarter page. We hope your readers will watch our video (which talks more about our research), the official movie trailer and then decide to be part of STYRIA.

T_ttlg: Thanks for your time.

2 comments:

Zahir Blue said...

So fantastic-looking! I really long to see the final product!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

you and me both Zahir :)