Frightfest interview: Another director Jason Bognacki Ian White August 18, 2014 Editor's Choice, Film4 Frightfest, Interviews 2900 Right, we’ll let you into a little secret. We won’t actually be running our full review of Another until the festival itself, but we’ll let it slip that director Jason Bognacki’s witchcraft chiller really hits the spot. In fact, not only is the film our pick of the Frightfest flicks we’ve seen thus far (via screeners), it’s also one of our favourite movies of the year full stop. For that reason, we made a beeline to chat to Bognacki about his stunning piece of work, and the great news is he was happy to field our questions. MR: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, and what led you into the visual arts? The information I’m finding online is a little sketchy. At heart I think I am an experimentalist, this constant need to break things apart and rebuild new forms has lead me to become an visual artist, viral experimental photographer, and filmmaker. MR: You have an eclectic mix of talents – filmmaker, designer, photographer, musician, (father! – is that your baby boy at the start of ‘Another’?) – and you’ve got an impressive CV. How do you manage to find time for it all, and is filmmaking your favourite talent in the list? I literally don’t sleep. It’s as simple as that… and kinda sad. If I didn’t have sleep issues I would not be able to pursue all the things I do. I think in a way film-making encompasses all the above mentioned disciplines… writing, photography, and music. I see design as sharing characteristics with both writing and directing… really the DNA of film making. So I guess the parallel can be drawn. If I’m not mistaken Hitchcock started off his career as a graphic artist, so it’s not a bad place to begin. Yes that is our second son in the opening sequence of Another. I hope he doesn’t hate me in later life for putting him in the film (I’m sure he’ll find other reasons). MR: From the small pieces I’ve seen of ‘The Red Door’ and ‘The White Face’ – (I’d love to see more! Any chance they will get a bluray release some day? Maybe when ‘Another’ becomes available?) The Red Door and The White Face are currently available on VOD at my film site. … www.fullframefeatures.com . There are plans to release a DVD collection of my short films. But there are a few unfinished films that need to be buttoned up before that happens, and feature film development is my focus right now. MR: Your work is very female-centric with, it seems, a lot of giallo and supernatural elements. Have you always been drawn to that kind of storytelling, and why? I guess my inner voice is female… I always suspected it. Horror, SciFi, Supernatural are always fun to write for. Anything is possible in those worlds. I think this is what draws me to the genre. MR: Who and what are your influences? (You mention both Jess Franco and Dario Argento in ‘Special Thanks’ at the end of ‘Another’) ‘Another’ also reminded me of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’, was that an influence? Inspiration comes from many places for me. I love people watching and daydreaming plot ideas around the interesting faces I see. I am also really influenced by music when script writing. Its not uncommon for me to compose music when writing. It helps paint the scene for me. A lot of the music I wrote for The Red Door came from those writing/composing sessions. MR: ‘Another’ is your first feature, and it is based on a short film you made in 2012. Was it always your intention to make ‘Another’ a feature, and what was it about this particular story that interested you? Another did start as a short, but early on in the production we decided to expand the story and make it feature length. My wife and I were pregnant at the time so the plan was finish production on the short film and stop down to have our son and then once things settled down (do they ever with kids) we would start filming again. I made the call pretty early on to expand the short film into a full length feature. At times while shooting the short I would be rewriting the scene to leave it open enough to allow us to pick things back up after the baby was born and complete it as a full length. The original short film has a different ending. We’ve talked about adding it as a special feature when ANOTHER gets released. MR: How much does ‘Another’ owe (if anything) to Argento’s ‘Three Mothers’? I love a lot of things about those early Italian films. The style, the use of music, and amazing camera work, the horrific and elaborate death sequences, the almost soap opera story lines, the camp, the high art, the over dubbing, the use of color… and the list goes on. Argento has inspired countless filmmakers, and I am one. MR: How does the short film ‘Another’ differ from the feature? Did you use the same cast? The feature version of ANOTHER uses a lot of footage from the short. There are a few scenes from the short that were not used in the feature that we might include on the DVD release. MR: You shot on a micro-budget with a very small crew. How much did ‘Another’ eventually cost to make, and how long did it take you? I think in the end we spent about $25k on ANOTHER. It took us just over 2 years, shooting when we had free time mostly on nights and weekends. We did take sometime off for having children and other personal reasons. MR: Your camera loves everyone you point it at. Paulie Rojas has that gamine Audrey Hepburn quality (was that something you were deliberately trying to evoke or is that how Paulie is in ‘real life’? – watching ‘Another’ makes me wish Hepburn hadn’t turned down ‘The Exorcist’!) Something clicked after we saw Paulie’s audition, and we changed the character slightly to fit her strengths, and I am glad we did. In our brainstorming sessions we were excited by the idea of what if “Audrey Hepburn did a giallo”. Paulie brought such an innocence to the role and it was great seeing her break that and show us the other extreme by the conclusion of the film. MR: There’s remarkable beauty in Maria Olsen and Nancy Wolfe. You seem fascinated by faces, and allowing performances to breathe, uninterrupted, without any flashy camera tricks. When casting I try and find faces that tell stories just by looking at them. Half the battle of directing happens in the casting phase. We were very fortunate to have found three extremely strong leads for ANOTHER. I love to let the camera roll, and let the performance spill out. Here’s a funny story Maria told me about being on our set. On this particular day we were shooting an emotional scene where it called for Maria to cry. I called action and she started laughing. “I have to prepare first”, she said. But I want to see it all… I want to see the moment when the sadness hits you… I want to see the change happen. She nailed it in one take. MR: How much preparation do you do when you compose your shots? Do you storyboard? Do you know when you go in each day exactly what you want to do? I do a lot of preparation before shoots. I usually have the scene in my head long before and I storyboard the scene out in my chicken scratch drawing style… with notation on lenses and camera movement, with reference to the shot list and sections of the script, it looks a bit like a nonsensical puzzle. I do this mainly so I have a visual reference to explain to the cast and crew what we are shooting for the day. Then I try to forget all that mess and be in the moment with a actors and see how the scene is unfolding. MR: The sets are also superb – was everything shot on location? Yes we got very lucky with some great free locations (Aunt Ruth’s house), and (Jordyn and Kym’s apartment). To build our own sets it would have been impossible. We got the most out of the locations we used by redressing them multiple different ways. MR: For me, ‘Another’ has the quality of being bewitched – the pace of the story, the beauty of the camerawork, the way you distort sound and visuals (particularly music), it feels like a cinematic spell is being cast. Do you believe in the occult power of cinema? I quote Kenneth Anger in my review (the review is attached to these questions) and he talks about a film being a mantra. I do think that there’s something to the idea that cinema is a dark art. The shared consciousness, the repeated frame sequences, the subliminal manipulation of time, space and narrative. When done right it can be a religious experience. MR: How did you choose the music for ‘Another’? Your use of The Drifter’s song and ‘Mockingbird’ is especially effective. Unlike The Red Door, I wasn’t able to compose the music for ANOTHER so I wanted to select pieces of music that were almost a character in themselves. Pieces like Mockingbird were manipulated so the warm connotations associated with become twisted into something out of a nightmare. MR: Do you have a Muse? Loma Lynda appears in a lot of your work, as does your wife Aline. When you put an idea together do you already have someone in mind, who inspires you? It’s very rare that I don’t have someone in mind. I love writing for strong complex female leads, and I’ve been told that all my female leads have a resemblance to my wife… so maybe that answers that question. MR: Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Vampyros Satanos’? Is ‘Another’ your Argento film, and will ‘Vampyros Satanos’ be your Franco film? On our honey moon my wife and I shot two films. The White Face and Vampyros Satanos. The White Face was completed on the trip and Vampyros was to be finished when we returned to Los Angeles. Unfortunately some scenes were lost when a hardrive was damaged on the jounery home, so I think Vampyros Satanos will forever be a “lost film”, unless we reshoot some scenes. MR: Any chance you will return to the witches of ‘Another’ again? The film ends pretty definitively, but the characters are so well drawn there could definitely be more stories to tell… Included on the DVD version of ANOTHER there will be a bonus scene after the credits that sets up a possible sequel. I do agree that there is more to this story that could be explored. We still haven’t met Jordyn’s Dad… or the Unholy Father…. I also believe there could be more covens out there are are trapped in the same cursed life cycle.