In Bed With Twisted Twins Jen And Sylvia Soska
Cinema Junkie / February 28, 2017
February is Women in Horror Month and just before the month closes I want to pay tribute to some wickedly talented filmmakers, Jen and Sylvia Soska and their second feature, "American Mary."
Beth Accomando: Welcome to another edition of KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando.
Beth Accomando: February's women in horror month and I'm going to get this podcast up just under the wire. I've been battling a cold and losing my voice. So, I wanted to celebrate women in horror much earlier in the month, but better late than never. For women in horror month I want to pay tribute to some we wickedly talented filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska.
Soundtrack: You can call this interview in bed with the Twisted Twins. That's true. Because it's completely true. You’ll get a lot of kids. Beth in bed with the twisted twist twins brackets. My girl watches. Maybe I need a photo to verify that.
Beth Accomando: Well Miguel Rodriguez at Horrible Imaginings Film Festival did get me that photo. You see I hooked up with the Twisted Twins while we were both at Monsterpalooza and their room was so small that the only place for all three of us to sit was on their bed. So, that's how I was lucky enough to get into bed with the Twisted Twins. And since their masters at marketing they encouraged me to promote my interview with those words. So, for today's podcast I go into the archives for a compilation of interviews I did starting in 2011 as I followed the progress of American Mary their second feature film through various festivals as it made its way to a distribution deal.
I was first introduced to the work of the twin filmmaking sisters at the inaugural Horrible Imaginings Film Festival in San Diego. Festival director Miguel Rodriguez showcase their first feature film Dead Hooker in a Trunk in 2010 and I was hooked. The film revealed a bold new voice in horror and I wanted more immediately. But it would be more than two years before their next feature American Mary. But I was so excited about their project that I convinced NPR to let me do a feature about it. And that was before I had even seen a single frame of the film. That's how confident I was that it would be good. The film tackled a subject that's rarely discussed, body modification. Catherine Isabel plays Mary Mason a med student whose financial hardship leads her into the lucrative world of underground surgery.
Soundtrack: This is about you and how you can best express yourself to the world. There are numerous procedures outlined here but please don't feel limited to them. The most important thing is that you are happy and comfortable with yourself. I know you may have come up against some harsh criticisms and judgments in the past but you can feel confident that you’re free from all such notions here. I can assure you that you will receive your procedure in a safe and supportive environment, and at a reasonable cost. It is difficult to put a price on feeling complete though. Isn't it?
Beth Accomando: Her clients ask her to split their tongues or surgically attached horns to their foreheads. That's all I knew about the film when I conducted a series of interviews with the tight lipped Twisted Twins. They didn't want any of the film’s secrets to get out before they had a chance to premiere the movie. But now I can reveal that the film also turns into a perverse rape revenge tale that's not afraid to go some place very dark.
Soundtrack: Joni I’m changing specialties Dr. Grand. Have you ever heard of body modification? Neither had I. Anyway you’re higher always. Always telling me that surgeons cannot make any mistakes so in the spirit of practice I’ve come up with a little list of the most popular procedure that we are going to try on you to night. So we have tongue splitting, I know implants sometimes referred to as 3D implants, teeth filing, genital modification, and ontary amputations. So, I think we should get started we have at least 14 hours of surgery ahead of us. I’d like to get it all done in one session so screen to your little tongue right here. And this one? Still learning from you [wail].
Beth Accomando: The Soskas are currently enjoying success with their reality show Elevator. In fact they just received their first Emmy nomination for outstanding host for a reality show or reality competition program. They've also directed a pair of features for WWE Studio’s See No Evil 2 and Vendetta. The campaign to try and get the directing gig for Dead Pool 2 because they're diehard fans of the comic, but they lost out to Eighty Seven Eleventh's David Leach. But I'm still hoping they have a shot at Dead Pool 3 because I'd love to see what they can come up with.
I'm thrilled to see them achieve so much success yet a part of me is sad that they haven't taken a break to make a more personal horror film again. One that would tap more deeply into their unique skill set and let us see once again that audacious and original horror sensibility that made American Mary such a kick ass film. To begin here's my interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska just before they were to make an appearance at Monsterpalooza in Burbank in October of 2011. Miguel Rodriguez was in the room but not in the bed with us and he was very good about being quiet. But you can hear someone's stomach growling but I can't remember which of us had forgotten to eat. I also speak with special visual and makeup affects artist Todd Masters who worked with the Twisted Twins on American Mary.
Here are the delightful, the adorable, the terrifyingly talented and the all so Canadian Jen and Sylvia Soska. I started the interview by asking Sylvia to describe what she could reveal about the plot of American Mary which they were very carefully keeping under wraps.
Jen Soska: The American Mary I would love to she's like my baby, my second born. I'm very, very obsessed with her as Sylvia and Jen will probably tell you because I checked the fuck up. Also if I say the wrong thing she will literally kick my ass so I usually leave American Mary questions to Sylvia.
Sylvia Soska: I feel like I'm a grizzly bear with this movie and it's my young and it is. The movie follows and medical student Mary Mason played by the incredibly talented intoxicatingly beautiful Catherine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps fame. And it follows Mary Mason as she becomes increasingly broken disenchanted with the medical profession and a surgeon she once admired. In the allure of easy money and notoriety takes her into the messy world of underground surgeries that leave more marks on Mary than her so-called freakish clientele. It's really a coming of age story and the harsh economy that we have right now which sounds crazy but it's actually pretty true.
Beth Accomando: Well we have a recent group of films that deal kind of with the bizarre surgery. We've had well Repogenetic Opera, Repo Men and then there's the new element of our film. Why do you think about this is so kind of fascinating right now?
Sylvia Soska: Well another reason I was most fascinated about doing some sort of a medical is it's because it's so real and a lot of the time when you go into medicine these are human beings that you pay to cut you up. So, they do cut into the flesh. I've spoken to quite a few surgeons, my mother sadly had a brain tumor when we were about three years old but thank God we had this amazing brain micro-surgeon called Dr Richmond that saved her life. But they're very eccentric people. Dr Richmond I love you if you’re listening to this. You saved my mother's life. But you are very interesting individual.
And I'm not saying you go into the dark plains of this but I think it's just so interesting because we put these people at this higher level and you kind of just kind of see that there's humanity there. It's not perfect these people are also somewhat flawed. But I think nobody likes going under the knife. Nobody at all. And when you think of something like for example human scent if you get in your mouth so to someone else's house. I mean that's a fucking nightmare and a half. It's just it's really I don't know realistic horror. I mean I could possibly believe that I would go to a hospital and get chopped up by people. Thank you Elaine Roth for putting that evil in my brain, but I don't really fear that when I go to sleep I'm going to see Freddy Krueger only if I'm really, really, really lucky.
Beth Accomando: Now what about horror kind of fascinates you and makes you want to pursue it?
Sylvia Soska: It's so strange but I don't remember a time that I ever didn't like horror. Jennifer and I being twins we're weird enough as it was. And to add to that weirdness you'd always be playing with spiders and nothing really scared us. And we'd watch other people react to us especially when you're playing with these bugs how they jump and they get so frightened and we're like, “Why would they be afraid of this?” And so I guess the fascination with fear it was just so real to us especially being little girls are like, “Oh you don't want to do horror movies. That's not for you. You won't like it.” So naturally at 10 years old we’d always go to our local video store and we would literally haunt it for hours. They had this wonderful display of all these horror movies and it was like a little haunted house. And we would go around looking at the back of boxes for the bloodiest things with the goriest masks and we feel like, “Oh this is a good one.” And we’d beg our mom and never, never, never let us watch one until Poltergeist.
Soundtrack: This one will think a terrible present is in there with her. So much rage so much betrayal I’ve never sensed anything like it. I don’t know what hovers over this house and it was strong enough to punch hole into this world take a dagger away from you. Keep scarily and very close to it and away from the spectrum light. It lies to her. It says things over your child can understand. He’s been using her to restrain the others. To her it simply is another child, to us he is the beast.
Sylvia Soska: She washed it with us and we kept our cool, and when it was bedtime we freaked the fuck out. And she did something that actually literally changed our life forever. She sat us down and told us exactly what we had seen. She told us about the writers, the directors, the actors and the prosthetic artists and she told me everything I saw was systematically made by very talented artists with the intention of scaring me. And I was like, “Wait a minute these people's job is scaring people for a fucking living?” And that was it we're hopelessly hooked which makes me even more excited to have such amazing prosthetics coming over in American Mary. It's just been, it's always been a dream to do a prosthetic movie with a lot of very interesting horror. Not the kind of stuff that you see like you see people get stabbed and cut all the time but medical mutilation. And that really can have some fun with.
Jen Soska: I find horror is a really vital part of life. I really hate when people call it a subgenre. The way I like to look at horror is kind of like when you get a kid and animals so that they have an early experience with dealing with death, because if you lose your cat of course it's really upsetting inside but it's a lot better to have lost a cat or a goldfish or a hamster before having to deal with say the death of a parent or grandparent. Horror is amazing because you can deal with the true horror in reality. And you know it's fantastical horror as well because you need escapism as well but in real life if you get attacked, if you’re raped, if you're murdered, if you have some horrible situation happen to you or someone close to you, you don't have the convenience of just or the freedom of sitting there and watching it from a different perspective. You're in that horrific scene.
And I hate it when people try to put censorship in scenes that are very upsetting like that because in reality you can't skip to the next stage, cap over to the curtains. I think it's a very safe way for people to examine the darker side of human nature and like this that old saying is there's two dogs fighting in all of us and you know the good one and the bad one and whichever one wins is the one you feed more.
Beth Accomando: How difficult was it to get American Mary financed? Did you meet a lot of resistance in terms of the kind of story?
Sylvia Soska: Oh my goodness it was I can't even believe it was such a uphill battle. It’s still sometimes a bit of an uphill battle. We went with a wonderful company called Industry Works which is actually the company that we worked as a sales agent to get her new trunk out and then we had this really raunchy. I thought really different script and a lot of people were reading and they're really excited to see how the movie turned out but they don't want to be involved at all and they don't want to take the risk and nothing.
As a matter of fact what happened is my parents ended up mortgaging their house to get the first big chunk of funding. So, people would actually be like, “Oh you're not the first person and these fuckers already have their money in there, so it's a little bit more of a safe investment.” But thank God we found a really good team that actually knows the story, read the script and they're really, really excited about it.
I remember there's this one gentleman who's a very big guy and he has a movie out with a star in it and it's been in a bunch of theaters and it's a piece of shit and he lost a lot of fucking money on that. And he read American Mary and he oh no, no. He refused to read American Mary because he doesn't read scripts. He asked me how much tips was in it and how much gore was in it and then he asked me three times who the director was and he's like, “You know what? I can get someone way better than us.”
And it's just it's up uphill battle I thought after we made Dead Hooker in a Trunk people would be like, “Oh these girls kind of know what they're doing. Maybe we should give them a little bit more money.” Fuck no, absolutely fuck no. And if you're a filmmaker listening to this and you really want to get into it do it yourself. Honest to God do it yourself. There are some benefits to working inside a studio system but you're going to have to work inside an independent studio system and you're going to be making it for fucking cheap.
And you just have to make sure you have people that are doing it because they're excited about the art and excited about making the story, not excited about the paycheck. Because you can pay anybody to do their job but you can't pay somebody to be passionate about something and kill themselves to make it happen.
Jen Soska: One of the biggest struggles about American Mary is I know you can't say exactly what the film is about but the content is so original and it's never been done before. And that really does entice people and they get excited by it. But because it's never been done before and it's such an original idea it's not proven. I mean when Clockwork Orange came out I'm sure a lot of people said, “Oh fuck well I don't know if this rape language British thing is going to take off.” I mean there are a lot of people that really dislike the film and eventually it became a cult classic.
But it's kind of the same thing with American Mary. It’s a very high concept no one's ever done it before and the things that happen in the film haven't been attempted before. And it looks good on paper. Nobody wants to put money into it initially but everyone says as soon as it's ready bring it to us first.
Sylvia Soska: And I think that's a lot of the problem that's going on right now. Everybody is really excited by these independent artists that are coming up with these really unique ideas. Once they get these artists they want to take away everything that's unique because that's considered a big risk. They want to be girl meets guy, girl doesn't do much except be really pretty and guys saves the day and we've got to have some girl in a shower showing their teats running from some killer. It's just I've seen that movie and it's not like I don't like that movie and I don't have anything like any problems with sexuality in movies. But there's a big difference from being in boogie nights and being Heather Graham in that amazingly sexy Roller Girls scene or being a pair of teats whose face is never in focus. Like there's a big difference and it's not a service to anyone watching the film to have characters points like that except maybe in Parona 3D. That would he didn’t pretend to be anything other than it wasn't certainly to leverage.
Beth Accomando: Do you also think that being women and doing horror makes it even harder that you know people feel like somehow you shouldn't be doing this or you should be doing a different kind of horror?
Sylvia Soska: Well I do get a lot of reactions from people when they find out I made movies with Jennifer. They ask what kind of movies and I’m like, “Oh we make horror movies.” And they’re like, “Oh well you seem really talented maybe you should make something else.” Just and it's that negative connotation with horror like if you look around the world look at what happened when they had made a Serbian Film. And yes it's provocative, yes it's there's points that are completely disgusting, but the ratings board said it was fine so if someone chooses to see it they should.
This happened in Canada in Montreal there was a prosthetic artist called Remy Couture and he was actually taken to court for moral corruption because this prosthetic affects looks so good and it just feels like you're upset about real life situations and who are you taking it out on? People that are just making movies that are reflecting things that are actually happening. It's always been easy to have a bad judgment of horror because what do you think to the person who doesn't know about horror who doesn't love the movies you perceive actors to be people that are obsessed with death and like actually enjoy human suffering and want to have it provoked in that, and it's very uneducated.
And one of the coolest experiences I think I've ever had is when Dead Hooker in a Trunk was banned in a theater in Saskatoon for its title alone we got letters from around the world people who didn't even watch the movie or like the movie defending it. We actually had a university professor from New York who went out watched the movie and she wrote this huge big thesis about it how it’s so unbearable that they would ban the movie for such a stupid reason. And it's true. It would be absurd to name something Dead Hooker in a Trunk and not have it be satirical. It's just it would be disgusting and it would be socially irresponsible to what is the word glamorize that kind of violence against people.
Jen Soska: Sensationalize.
Sylvia Soska: Sensationalize right. My sister has half my brain unfortunately. I get to borrow it sometimes. One thing about being females in horror especially since Diablo Cody came on the scene and Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar when people kind of looked at it like it was a niche like a quote like, “Oh look you're a girl. That's a cool marketing angle what can we do with that?” But it's also double edged sword especially if you're an identical twin. There's this faddish going around where people think that they're magically going to have a threesome right away. And there's you present yourself in a certain way and you find you're always breaking down people's perception of you. And I can't tell you how many times I've even gone to big agencies in Los Angeles and they said they want to sign you as a client. And I go, “Jingo.” Because she's the single one gets a phone call right after the guy wants to fuck her and, “Oh yeah I know I'm not going to sign you up but I would love to take you out for dinner.” And it's the same and you know what? It's Hollywood baby I've got some guys get the same phone call after they’ve gone. It's tough for everybody. It's really tough.
Jen Soska: I feel the expectation is different for women. I do know that there are some women out there that have their independent films and they say, “Oh it's because I'm a woman that it's not getting out there.” Unfortunately and I hate to say it some of the time, not all of the time, but some of the time it’s because your film just isn't good enough. And when we first completely Dead Hooker in a Trunk our first edit it was not good enough. It wasn't.
And I don't think that women should be graded fairer than men. If anything I think we should be graded harder. I mean we are, we do have to catch up with where they've been and unfortunately it's not just filmmaking. I mean unfortunately men have been ahead of us with occupations for a while. I mean for careers a lot, traditionally we used to stay home and they used to have the jobs and it's not a negative thing. I mean things are changing and there are a lot of women on the scene right now.
I find it insulting if someone looks at my film and says, “Oh well it's a good film for a girl.” I'm not making a good film for a girl. I just want to make a good film and I try not to have us being women come into it. I mean some of the nicest things I've ever heard someone say, “Oh I’ve really liked Dead Hooker in a Trunk. I don't know girls wrote it.” That's really fucking cool and I want to break that stereotype.
You shouldn’t watch a film and know that there's a male writer or a female writer or a male director or female director. I think the emphasis really should be on the work. And when people get caught up on is it a guy making it? Is it a guy making it? I don't see the difference. It really should be an emphasis on doing good work.
Sylvia Soska: And what you said about women having to work harder it reminds me of my, this I don't refer you comic book ekes out there I don't know if you've ever heard about a movie called a graphic novel series called The Preacher. But there’s this amazing panel where they have the lead bad guy air star and the first thing he says is, “Kill the women first.” And he goes on to he's talking about terrorist attacks and he's saying if you're in a terrorist attack and there's a woman there the reason why she is there is because she not only is she good at what she does, she was so much better than every single fucking man there which they would rather have that she made it so she had to be here.
And that's exactly the way it is in the film industry. You have to be so fucking good that it doesn't matter if you have a vagina, a penis or fucking both you have to have the best product out there. And a lot it's it comes off arrogant a lot of the time when you hear other filmmakers say that. And I don't I'm not saying anything that I've done is better than anything. As a matter of fact the only reason Jen and I are sitting here talking to you guys is because the horror community is the best fucking people, it consists of the best fucking people in the world. They heard about this movie and they did pieces, they told people about it, they said go see it. And now it's out by IF Siegmund night and just shows you what the community can actually make done if you work fucking hard and really you're going to, if you're a filmmaker and you think I'm going to make a movie and be rich. No.
Jen and I have never been paid for a single thing. And there's still a long time it's four years we both gone down two dress sizes because literally and myself Jen and CJ Wallace getting two shoes for him to Dead Hooker in a Trunk we fell in love in the movie and he’s now my partner both ways business and everything else. But if I can starve for it. And that's that term starving artist it's a real thing but when you start seeing it pay off and you see a little bit of success it's makes it all worth it. You really have to work everything to make it happen.
Beth Accomando: Do you think either Dead Hooker or American Mary are a film that could have been made within a studio system or these films that really had to be made independently?
Sylvia Soska: Dead, go ahead.
Jen Soska: I think Dead Hooker in a Trunk there's no way and how it could have been done with the studio. The plot if someone was to say that there's a consistent plot they might have been smoking a little bit too much weed or drinking more booze too heavily during the screening. We actually structured the plot of the film to follow more like a video game plot so that you'd never know what was going to happen. I hate watching a movie and the first five minutes and you're like, “Oh I'm not sure why that character is there. He's probably the bad guy. That's the good guy.” It happened to me when I was watching Shutter Island. Spoiler alert for anyone that hasn't seen Shutter Island I looked at it and said, “God I sure hope Leonardo De Capri is not just the crazy missing patient.” And then through the entire thing as it progressed I was like no it's just too obvious. And then it ended there and I was so angry because I really wanted to see Martin Scorsese scare the shit out of me. And you know he did, smarts if I say this. It's not like he fucked up but that one plot thing I saw from the beginning.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk the way we structured it, the way we shot it, the feeling behind it wouldn't have been the same if it was studio film. Everyone came out and volunteered their time. It was done during the writers' strike almost nobody made anything to work on Dead Hooker in a Trunk. It was truly a passion project. And I think if it was a studio film it would have been completely a different creature by the time it came out. It would have been the people's film. And I really feel Dead Hooker in a Trunk doesn't just belong to us but it belongs to the people that watch horror movies and think, “I wish this would happen. I wish this semi truck would show up and take her arm a full.” Yeah it happened yeah we wanted that to happen too.
And American Mary I think with a studio I think it's a bit too high concept for a studio to have really got it and especially the way we're doing some of the things, some of the tricks and some of the people that we're bringing in. I don't think a studio would have been comfortable enough.
Sylvia Soska: Well, the thing is that studios aren’t paying for movies to get made anymore especially from new artists. They want to make their twilight, they want to make the big superhero movie, they want to make the thing that they know they throw shitload of money at and they're going to get a shitload of money back. As a matter of a most studios do acquisitions right now. We've had almost every major studio read the script for American Mary and they like it. They don't know if Jennifer and I can pull it off but they really like it and they want to be the first to see it. But they will not put a penny in and they will do nothing to support it.
And that's kind of a reflection of the times especially it's there's a dissolution and desertion, the disappearance the end of the middle class.
Jen Soska: What of these D words?
Sylvia Soska: There is no middle class. The middle class is disappearing. It's just going to be rich and poor. And the same thing is happening with film. There's not going to be $5 million budget. It's going to be under a million and these hundred million dollar giants. And that's just the reflections of the times. The big studios don't want to take a risk on this. If they put in like $5 million to make American Mary and nothing came back from it they don't want that time. They want to have some guy with a shirt off doing some PG movie where they can have the underage kids in there because…
Beth Accomando: Taylor Lautner.
Sylvia Soska: I think he makes beautiful back flips. And Taylor Lautner you ever want to be in a really good horror movie you can look me up. I think I could do something awesome with you. Britney Spears too I've changed my mind about you. I think you could be a really good actress.
Beth Accomando: So, where did the idea for American Mary come from? I mean what kind of drove you to make this is the next film?
Sylvia Soska: Oh this is such a funny story. When Dead Hooker in a Trunk was done the very first cast we made a little trailer and the movie was so inspired by Grand House. We sent the trailer to every single director involved and we never expected to hear anything back. They just said the story inspired us thank you so much.
Two days later I hear from Eli Roth and he's just he's been such a sweetheart, he's such a supporter of independent filmmaker and he's a dude feminist. And I know that sounds weird but he really likes chicks. He’s watched Hostel 2 and he wants the girl to be the one that kills the girl and also to be the bad guy. But after he had we had done all the talking about Dead Hooker in a Trunk he asked us what other scripts we had. And I didn't have anything at all so I lied and said, “I have a whole bunch of ideas Eli. I got some which one do you want to read first? I got this one, this one, this one about this medical student.” He's like, “Yeah oh the medical student one.” And was like, “Oh cool I just got to do a little pass over it and I'll send it over.”
And the medical student idea had come from something I saw on the Internet that truly, truly, truly disturbed me. And it was something that left a mark on me and when something scares me I kind of fixate on it and I want to learn everything about it. And I know this is so unfair. What did she talk about, what is she's seeing? The last cameo scene Jennifer and I are actually ending stepping away from acting for from now on and to just focus on writing and directing. So we can have one final cameo role in this and that actually happened in real life a little more grotesquely than it is in the movie. I know it's a little bit of a copout but don't worry another scene will make up for it. And oh my goodness and they said you have to be an identical twin to understand why somebody would do this. And I thought, “No, not something I don't want to be an identical twin to do this no.” It’s like it’s so scary it might actually be a really funky concept for a movie.
And we got together, we wrote the little outline, we had it done in two weeks and sent it away. And we we've been picking away at it ever since. It turned out really crazy because…
Beth Accomando: It's okay, it’s okay script.
Sylvia Soska: It's weird because it kind of took the legs of its own because there are some characters I was like, “Oh they're just going to be here for this and they're just a plot point.” But they kind of stayed in it. It kind of took a life of its own and before I knew it I had this big complicated movie that I was really, really proud of that was really, really different. And then the next time I was like, “Eli,” I had to admit it I was like, “Eli I have something to tell you.” He was like, “What is it?” It's like, “I don't actually have American Mary already writ. I just lied to you and then we wrote it in two weeks.” He just looked at me and laughed and he was like, “Yeah.” And then he asked me to pitch in the movie which I did. And he did some he's amazing tough love. He said, “Your pitch sucks work on it.” And I did and now it's getting made. Thank you so much Eli [laughs]
Beth Accomando: You guys are really teases though because you're like…
[overlapping conversation] [00:30:38]
Sylvia Soska: But here's something that's a little cheesy that hasn't been done I've there's rumors a lot of times when you watch horror movies that they don't have the budget for this so they did it in reality like they actually did this to someone. Well, we are working with a modest budget. But I thought it’d be kind of a thrill if we mixed real stuff with some of the prosthetics and when you watch the movie you won't be able to tell if something is really happening or if it’s something completely fabricated. So, it's going to be pretty raunchy. There's a few days that the crew is like, “Can I not have to come in on that day?” I'm like, “Yes everybody doesn't have to come in on that day except for the DP. You have to be there.” [laughs]
Beth Accomando: Now in pushing the envelope like this you'll probably get people who say things like they did with Human Centipede like why should we go through this? Why should films like this exist? So when people say things like that what do you say in response?
Jen Soska: I usually say thank you because the worst thing that can happen is someone watches your film and they have nothing to say about it. I remember watching that film Vacancy and I remember I saw the first scene that’s so scary and I literally with a gun to my head cannot tell you what else happened in the fucking movie. I hate it when someone watches a film and it's instantly forgettable. With Dead Hooker in a Trunk people either passionately say they love it or they passionately say we're talentless piece of shit directors from Canada. And I'm happy for that because they’re passionate about the actions.
Sylvia Soska: Some of that can be up for some supple opinion about we're both Canadian. Everything else is you know opinion. [chuckles]
Jen Soska: Yes, we're definitely Canadian whether you love it or not. But it's a good thing because you want to instill a strong emotional reaction. That's what film should do. It should there should be a purpose for making a film. And you know that's my advice to some filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers with so much go damn competition. When they make a film and they don't know their marketing strategy, they don't know why the film exists, you ask them, “What are you saying with this film?” And they're like, “Oh well it's a love story.” Who the fuck cares if it's a love story? Everything could be a love story but why does your film have to exist?
I'd rather make a film that a thousand people have to see than a film that a lot of people just see and forget. I want American Mary to be a film that I know it's so hard to describe it fuck without saying what it's about. But there’s I know there are a lot of little girls and a lot of bigger girls and grown up girls that can't make American Mary. But what happens in American Mary and the message of the character and the way she go, the way she perseveres and the things she goes through, I think it's going to be one of those films that if you're having a shitty day you’re going to put on American Mary and you’re going to feel better about life.
Sylvia Soska: Maybe not all the way better about life but you're going to feel like a fighter.
Jen Soska: Well, I also know that we completely, completely are ready for any kind of backlash about it. As a matter of fact the first time I heard about Mary Harry and the wonderful director of American Psycho she was having to defend the movie against the Canadian government because they wanted it thrown out of Toronto because the material in it. And she spoke so eloquently and so intelligently and that’s part of the reason why the lead character is named Mary because I had such a strong level of respect for her. I was like, “Look at how she's doing this and she's talking about this movie so intelligently and they're just ripping her apart.”
It was like there's something about a person who can make a movie, write and direct a movie and then stand behind it no matter how what kind of backlash comes from it. Because when you know what you're doing and you know the intention that you're going for some people are going to hate it. I have no problem with that but you’re not making it for those people. I’m making it for the people who do want to see it.
I also blame Lars von Trier he's one of my favorites. And I remember watching him at Con when Anti Christ played and they said, “Why did you bring this movie here?” And he said, “I'm the director and you are my guest.” And I thought, “Well Lars I would just love to sit on a little council and has somebody stand and be like why did you make American Mary?” Of course I wouldn't say that because I'm not so pompous about the, “You're my guest,” but I would probably say exactly why I made it because it's…
Beth Accomando: You’re too Canadian to say that.
Jen Soska: I don't know. I'm just too humble people say they love the movie and I'm like, “Oh thank you so much.” And so it just doesn't feel real because I think both of us are just such horror nerds that a chance that we're the thing that the fact that we're even having these opportunities. And it's completely incredible it's just amazing experience.
Sylvia Soska: I feel a lot of responsibility for that too because we have the opportunity to bring our films to life. I mean there are so many horror fans that want to be given the opportunity to release their films and to make their ideas. And I feel that is something that we always take into respect and put a huge perspective on because if we want to make films that people want to see. I think that horror unfortunately is one of those cash cows that a studio can just put together using you put this name in, you put blood and tits in, and you release it on Halloween and you get a certain amount of money back.
And you can feel that those films don't have a soul. People don't love horror that are making and people don't even understand it. It's just like a quick cash cow. It's like I know that there is a horror audience that will come in and see every piece of shit movie. I know I've seen every Saw movie in the theaters.
Jen Soska: I love the Saw movies.
Sylvia Soska: I know but is everyone going to change your life?
Jen Soska: No, they did not change my life. But I do like to whisper that I'm going to make people atone. That was awesome.
Beth Accomando: Well, wondering in today's environment where you do have films like Saw and Hostile and it seems like part of what's going on too with the horror audience is it's like they're going to these films just to do this one upsmanship thing where it's like, “Oh I can watch that. Oh that doesn't bother me. Oh that.” You know it's like -- and how do you make films for like a horror audience where you know they're kind of jaded and you know they're kind of the scream fans too who wanted a bit jokey, but if you really want to go to that dark side. I mean how hard is it to kind of get to that audience and try and reacquaint them with what like real horror is?
Sylvia Soska: I think as long as the piece that you're doing has some sort of an honest message to it despite the like I just watched a movie called Ponty Pool. It's very non graphic but oh my god the tension. You're watching and you're just hearing that. And it's not there's nothing classic horror about it but they built the tension. Another great film Funny Games. It does come off gruesome but oh my gosh the tension in the entire filming. You're not doing the typical, “Oh this guy is unbeatable and he's a tool of the devil and he has super power.” No. These two kids come to your house and they just wreak havoc on your family and social politeness keeps you from telling them to fuck off right away. It's just so fascinating.
We've learned so much working on film after Dead Hooker in a Trunk. We really walked ass backwards into that and we worked hard to catch up to where we needed to be. And it's been really hard and it's been really grueling. And a lot of the plot of American Mary goes in tune with that where it's so hard to just live, pay your rent, pay your bills just survive. But if you want to be something exceptional, if you want to break the mold and do something that's really going to leave a mark on the world you have to sacrifice so much. And sometimes especially today where it's just so fucking hard you sacrifice the person that you are and the choices that you make to get there. And that's really what we delve in with this. Yes it's extremely violent in some parts but there are some parts that are really scary. Well, we're not bashing anyone over the head. We’re just building tension in these horrible situations that you really won’t want to be in but we make it situations that are very familiar to you. So, even though this is a fantastical world about underground operations and whatnot it's also something like I've been there, I've been the girl that’s standing there that feels like everyone is out to get me. So, it's interesting. I think you have to be a horror fan to understand what horror fans want to see. Because when you do it for the money it's never going to work out for you.
Jen Soska: I think when the emphasis is purely on the horror it can only turn into a one upmanship. I mean look at the Saw films. I mean I enjoy them. I really did like them and I like to poke fun at them because they're like the next boyfriend that I still kind of have a crush on. But when you cannot look at the Saw films and say that they went into deeper character development. You can't say that it's on par with something like Silence of the Lambs. And I think that is an element that needs to return to horror movies.
I think the focus has to be on doing a magnificent film but with horrific elements to it. Of course you can have the gore, of course you can have the fucked up shit happening, of course you can have the parts where your mom is like, “Oh no I hope you cut that out.” But if you put something more in with Dead Hooker in a Trunk I think our humor and the passion of it and the just Grindhouse style of it really came across and that's what people got behind. I think it was the passion that got people behind it. And with American Mary there is a lot of gore in this movie and there are going to be some parts that are very, very difficult to watch. But there's a very strong story line. That’s something that we got as a critique of Dead Hooker in a Trunk. People said there's not much of a plot, there's not very well developed characters. Yeah, I know I didn't develop those things. It was supposed to be you can drink through the entire film and you're not going to get lost.
Soundtrack: There is a dead body in the trunk with drugs. We have to call the police right now. It’s not like you guys had anything to do with that, right? Most of it is really fussy. I'm going to go bury the body. You can’t just drive around with corpse in your car.
Jen Soska: If you look for a deeper meaning in Dead Hooker in a Trunk I can tell you but the religious undertones. I can tell you our feelings about violence against women. I can tell you that I prefer to write a heroic character and not write it as a woman but just cast a woman like with Sigourney Weaver in the Alien Franchise. But I think it would if you were just going to focus on horror it would just be more and more gore.
And I was having this conversation with Todd Masters that at some point if it the emphasis is just on horror, I mean he does prosthetics and of course he does horrific elements, but he does prosthetics personifying his prosthetics for a “normal shows” as well. And at a certain point if you’re just trying to grow so your competitors you just going to have some unwatchable crap and you're just going to have gore for the sake of gore. And that's fine. I mean everyone wants to turn on something bloody or something sexy or something stupid sometimes. But then again who's going to watch that film over and over again? Of course there's a niche audience but if there's a film like Silence of the Lambs that you can study in film school and you can have theological discussions about it, and you can really break that film down with all its crucial elements. That's something that becomes immortal.
But I don't know if we're going to be talking about Saw in the future. I bet we are the first one because there it was very, very clever. But the unfortunate thing about turning a film like that into a franchise is that it's expected at the end of each film to have a twist. That's my same feeling with Emight Shawn. I think he's a wonderful director but I want to see him do a twist. That's no twist. I want him to go through an entire fucking film and you're waiting for the twist and it just ends, because that wouldn’t be original.
The same thing happened with scream. You're just sitting there and I find I'm not even watching the fucking movie. I'm just looking at actors or characters that don't seem to be well rounded enough and saying, “Okay well that's probably the killer because I don't know why she's in the movie or he's probably the killer because I don't know why he's in the movie.”
Beth Accomando: Yeah, talk a little bit about why you chose to use prosthetics as opposed to CGI. I mean aside from budget but I mean there's a real reason for making that choice.
Sylvia Soska: Well prosthetics are really what got us into really loving horror filmmaking. It’s just watching the actual physical thing. And you look at a movie, a classic movie like The Thing you see the effects and they still live up to today. I watched the first Spiderman movie because I'm a Spiderman nerd and I'm like, “Oh look Spiderman is floating. Oh look how stupid this is.” It just seems like a disservice to the storytelling. Sometimes a movie is so good you still like it if the effects are crappy.
But why do it, why do it when you can actually do it in a proper way? I know prosthetics are a little costly but if you use them where they count. Use them where -- we made a fake head for Jen in Dead Hooker in a Trunk. You could pop an eye out of a socket and now if that was worthy extra little bit of change. It's a very special moment in the film.
Jen Soska: Also we’re definitely ‘80s brats. I grew up watching stuff where you actually had stuff there like Jacob's Ladder. They had the use of real life amputees and that was horrifying to use real life amputees and The Thing as well. And another unfortunate thing about CGI is that it's changing constantly which is a good thing except if you look at say a music video that Queen did back in the day you can tell that it was made in the ‘70s. You're instantly taken out of the moment. The Hulk Movies are an example I come back to. I love superhero movies and I love the Hulk, but I watch it and I'm not seeing the Hulk. I'm seeing some big massive CGI thing and it just completely takes me out of the story.
And maybe it's just me because admittedly I am the pickiest person to watch movies. I'll be like, “Oh I don't like that lighting, or that chart is almost symmetrical, or the background is disgusting, or the wardrobe is so obvious.” But…
Sylvia Soska: You are a snub.
Jen Soska: Oh yeah but you have to watch movies with me [laughs].
Sylvia Soska: Well I just think of a movie like The Exorcist. What if they CG for that? That would have been terrible. But what Dick Smith did with Reagan and all even The Aging he just revolutionized how movies are made, how prosthetics are viewed. And no one would be scared of a little girl but oh my God did he make that girl terrifying? It's just it just has a better impact. You can always tell a cartoon you can almost always be like, “Oh that’s CG.” And then you're out, and then you lose everyone completely.
Jen Soska: I wouldn’t say that CG is completely awful. But I know it seemed originally that it was used for little embellishments. Like little places that it was subtle enough that it would really hit the mark. In Dead Hooker in a Trunk, sorry spoiler alert, there's a scene where a junky loses her arm. And we have a lot more footage but we had to minimize it to only be that much because any longer it would have looked fake any longer, it had to be that fast and had to be that abrupt.
And that's how I feel about CGI especially if it's supposed to be an embellishment, if it's supposed to be adding to an effect. And again coming back to the Hulk if they could make dinosaurs for a Jurassic Park I mean like God can't you make like a Hulk creature or make a small one and just Lord of the Rings just proportionately make it bigger? There's got I mean somebody has got to try them. I’m sorry Josh Weid I'm still going to love the CGI in Avengers I promise.
Beth Accomando: Well, is it also partially that if you're using CGI your actors are not as engaged because it's something that's going to be added later and with the prosthetics it's something that's there?
Sylvia Soska: Oh definitely. Well it's so cool when you have the pro -- I love having actors who haven't had prosthetics before to have prosthetics because they it's exciting. Everyone you have a prosthetic day everyone is smiling, everyone is excited about it. You have a tennis ball on a stick people don't get as excited to see it come around, “Oh look he's over here. Oh I'm scared.”
Jen Soska: I know it's called acting but it's kind of like a disservice to your actors to not give them something to act against. I would say that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is absolutely my favorite film. But you know it's almost like CGI has gotten a little bit lazier in the day because I watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit and I see like Roger will jump on the bed and there'd be little footprints of him sitting there, and you have Bob Hoskins giving him exact eye contact. And I think because it was one of the first films that were done like that, and you know Oscar winner special achievement, they had to do it really, really well because people were looking at them to fuck up.
And now it's somehow just gotten a little bit more lazy where oh well people know it’s CGI and we’re not going to try and cover it. It's just too much work. Yeah it is a lot of work and if you're going to, pardon me and go down that route, you should put the work in absolutely. Because you're going to pay for it in the end when someone sitting there rolling their eyes being like, “Oh Wins Hawk is going to turn back to Bruce Banner.”
Beth Accomando: Okay, I think you guys probably need to get ready for.
Sylivia Soska: Always ready.
Jen Soska: All right ready.
Sylvia Soska: We’re nerves.
Jen Soska: We’re ready to. Oh it’s 6:30.
Beth Accomando: It would be more than six months later that I got to speak with Visual Effects and makeup artist Todd Masters at his warehouse offices. I spoke with him on May 6th of 2012 just after he received a Skype call from the Soskas informing him that American Mary would be screening during the Con Film Festival but not in competition.
Sylvia Soska: We’re really excited it's going to be played on the 17th. We have…
Todd Masters: Wow that's cool it's coming up.
Sylvia Soska: It is coming up. It’s the first time I'm going to see an audience actually react to the movie so I’m really fucking thrilled.
Todd Masters: So May 17th you're playing at Con?
Sylvia Soska: Yeah playing at Con. It’s not…
Jen Soska: That’s 11 days.
Todd Masters: Wow.
Jen Soska: But it’s already fuck out. It's not in competition. It’s in the market and we have we rented out this big place and it looks like it's from the movie. It’s all black and white with little accents of red. It looks like gore like manner. It’s really beautiful and we're going to be playing a big bunch of people from the market coming in, a bunch of people from different districts, different studios. So, I hope they laugh and get disgusted.
Todd Masters: Well yeah I think they will. They will enjoy it thoroughly. It's a great movie.
Beth Accomando: I asked him how he first got involved with the Soskas and American Mary.
Todd Masters: I got a call from Jen Soska boy early in 2011 or maybe even late 2010. They had this project they wanted to share and they sent the script and we had a meeting. And it was kind of obvious that these two were a little different than the average film persons that I had worked with. You know most film people I work with they’re kind of I hate to say. But they're in a way we're kind of over it. You know I mean a lot of us are for instance I myself I've been doing it for all my life and I'm not over it absolutely. But you know you feel that the strains of filmmaking And these two came in bright eyed bushy tailed and ready to make you know Lawrence of Arabia if necessary. I just immediately fell in like with them and that they were pretty fucking awesome and so I read their script. And it was kind of weird. When I started reading the script it was like this is also not the same old script. This script has actually got a lot of soul in it. And then they gave me their first movie and I’m like, “What the hell is up with these two?” As I watched this movie that they claim to have made for a nickel, literally nickel, it was actually really good. That was Dead Hooker in a Trunk. You know the way these two worked it was obvious that they were bullshit earnest. They were actually really going for it.
And I love their back story. They came to me actually by, they entered a little contest we had on our company's Facebook page. Masters Effects as a sort of Facebook page. Every so often we run you know fun little contest up to our fans and stuff. And so here's a post from Sylvia saying, “Hey here's the answer to your question.” I want to win the shortlist. We said it was sure I had no idea she was a filmmaker.
And then flash forward months later we're on the set of American Mary and we're making their next Opus and it was so much fun. I mean it was like being a new filmmaker again. You know this is our 25th year doing business as Masters Effects and I mean I've been filmmaker since I, you know professional filmmaker since I was 12 believe it or not. I actually started painting animation cells when I was 12. And so it's been a long road for me and these guys kind of like reinvigorated the filmmaker soul in me.
So, it was kind of cool to kind of jump on board and work on this thing. It was by far the most fun that our shops had in a long time and I think some of the better works that we've done in a long time just because we were so into it. And hey we did it for a song because it was independent small budget thing and it was actually kind of fun to try to achieve it high level with bubble gum and sticks and Hockey Day.
Beth Accomando: Now in contrast to the budget they had tell me some of the things that you worked on that are really much more mainstream Hollywood kind of project.
Todd Masters: Sure. Well, we're currently finishing season five of True Blood and we also have Falling Skies season two of Falling Skies come up. It's a bunch of TV stuff but we also did the recent Underworld movie Underworld Awakening and you know Throughout The Years, Look Who's Talking, The Horse Whisperer, What Humans May Come, I worked on the original Predator, worked on Poltergeist 2, I mean you know Big Trouble in Little China and I've been around. And so and I've done a lot of commercials too with a lot of you know characters like I did Michelin Man and Jack from Jack in the Box and you know all sorts of staples on TV commercial.
So, we've really seen the gamut and so it's really nice when you get something that's different than so much fun. I mean I’ve done so much. It’s just bizarre to actually see that there's something unique and different in Hollywood. And it's didn't come from Hollywood it came from North Vancouver.
Beth Accomando: And what was it in this script that kind of hooked you that made you feel like you wanted to work on this project?
Todd Masters: The writing was really crisp but I really liked the way they handled dialogue and their characters. Not to say that I don't see a lot of good writing. I mean I'm very fortunate to be working with you know J.J. Abrams of the world in the Alan Balls of the world, I mean they'd write amazing material.
The Soskas had kind of a different riff on things. Not only was the subject matter original but I kind of felt like I was back in the ‘70s maybe with a sixteen millimeter in New York City trying to shoot a version of Mean Streets. It felt it had a lot of things that Hollywood has a tendency of falling into the same formula, the sig fields or the others that say you got to do this on page 30 and you got to do this and this page, and you need to have a subplot like this, and you know the protagonist needs to do all these things. And it is you know as everybody tries to not be formula there is a tendency of becoming that, and it's just because we're all kind of clustered together. We all read the same damn books you know, “Oh this is how you’re supposed to do it.”
The Sokas didn't do that. They kind of came out of nowhere and loved movies. You know they're kind of the female Clinton Talantino story where they were always hanging on video stores and even before they were old enough to look at horror movies apparently they were always like looking the back of video covers and trying to check out what the cool critter was and the Fangos. And they were kind of more of from the fan side of it.
And the script really read like it was something that they wanted to see you know rather than just the formula that you have to do to make a good script that everybody has to follow. They were writing a movie that they wanted to see. And because of that it made me want to see it. So, that was kind of cool. It was really want to create stuff enough to say the more A level pictures if you will or any lesser quality. It's just the Soskas are trying something on independent level that really feels like that ‘70s style of breakneck filmmaking where it was it was a little more about the art and less about the first week in Box Office.
Beth Accomando: And what do you think they bring to horror that is kind of kicking it up a notch or giving it a nice tweak?
Todd Masters: The Soskas are bringing to horror a unique spin on things. And I know I'm going to state the obvious here they’re female and there's not a lot of really talented female filmmakers leading the charge for good horror. There are some great directors out there but there's you know like for instance you know Kathryn Bigelow is a great director but she's only one. We have two of them and the great directors are great writers and they've even performed their first two movies and really good actors, and I guess they've done their own stunts. And I don't know maybe did the coffee.
Because they’re women they seem to stick out of a male dominated genre. A lot of people think that blood and gore is for the boys and so these are kind of like girls that really like hanging with the boys you know but play their way. And so they have, they're certainly not butch, they're certainly not you know they're very feminine and beautiful women but they just happen to like blood and gore. And they love monster makers stuff and they walk around our shop and they just totally geek out. And it kind of makes me geek out. You know it's kind of cute because if Eli Roth came to the shop and he starts geeking out even you know before he was what he is now, I don't know if I would geek out as much because that was another guy. You kind of you shelter that stuff, “I’m going to geek out if he’s geeking out.”
And these ladies are just kind of come through our shop and like every little thing they just think is the most fantastic business in the world they come up to our foam runners and they talk about, you know, our foam runner Mark Danielle they said to Mark, “We're really big fans of yours.” And he's like, “Yeah right.” They goes, “No, we really are big fans of the work you've done.” He goes, “I’ve run for my taxes.” “Yeah I know we love.” [laughs]
It’s like you know we have these amazing not just fans but appreciation of the art form. And that's kind of the neat thing about making up effects this side of the business is it actually start to be recognized as an art form. You know CG has kind of taken over a lot of films. A lot of the audiences start to go, “Hey you know what? We miss things looking kind of real.” And so that's also the other kind of fun part of this. These two are actually going, “You know what? They’re not after all that CG stuff. Let's really shoot stuff. Let's really film real things.” And for that style of movie the reality of it, the grid of it really pays off, and it's cheaper and it's better so you know.
Beth Accomando: Generally when you work on a film, is there as much of this kind of collaboration between the filmmaker and you as it seems like you have on American Mary with them?
Todd Masters: No, and it's not as much fun either. I mean I don't want to get myself in trouble with other filmmakers. But it's just we have a way of kind of over executives in what we do sometimes especially on big projects. You end up having to you know send out a lot of communication to a lot of people you really never meet. You know, you have executives and producers that have input and stuff and it's usually by e-mail and it's usually on phone or maybe even in a meeting with a group of people that you don't really intimately get to know that well. You don't really get to know their likes and dislikes and what maybe they're really looking for.
In a case of an independent film or a case like working with the Soskas it's a very direct relationship. They either like it or they don't like it. And the other thing is because they were so interested in our company and the work that we've done historically, they really like the stuff we did. So, it was like, “You tell us what works best for this.” And it was a really great way to make the movie because I knew that they didn't have a lot of money and so they kind of gave us a lot of control on how to design some of the stuff. And so we gave them some good old fashioned tricks. You know things that are actually solid state. You know they really work but you don't require a lot of extra visual effects par se to make them you know what they are in film.
And the relationship is so much fun. We wanted to bring more on the table because we save so much time from not writing 10,000 memos or doing maybe the client polish. We just went right to the work that we put more on screen.
Beth Accomando: Well, also it just seems like the collaboration began early so that it seems like the effects were so well integrated into what the film itself is about. Because it’s about and it deals with underground surgery so it seems like that’s such an integral part of the story that you guys brought in and really factored in too.
Todd Masters: Yeah, yeah there was there's you know whenever you're doing a film like this I mean this involves a medical student and some pretty unusual surgeries. And doing things like that you wanted to feel grounded you want to feel believable so you can really kind of get the emotion. If you cut into someone’s flesh, if it looks like phony flesh, you’re not going to get the full impact on what’s in the movie. There’s a variety of different ways to actually get to do a simple guide like not very that simple but you can screw it up really fast and make it look like in effect, we don’t want it to look like an effect, we don’t want people to step out of the movie, we want them to experience another story through images and not to be held back by, “Oh, they’re just seeing something phony.” And so by kind of getting into the heads a little bit, learning what kind of films that they were really influenced by, we started developing a good language. I scribbled all my ideas up so I do a lot of images just on my sketch pad, cartoons or whatever. So we were able to really kind of get the meter man really quickly where they were very specific on the shorts at certain times that they would like but other times they were welcoming to maybe ideas that would be maybe more interesting and stuff that they wouldn’t think that they could do with the effects.
So really kind of allowed for a lot of fun making the film together as it were, they really were interested in people that did what they did for a career, ask them for advice. They weren’t like, “Oh, I know better than you,” they weren’t like that. They would come to you and say, “What do you think?” And we would offer up ideas and say with the other department, people really engaged in making this movie, it wasn’t a dictatorship [laughter], it was actually a very friendly said and it totally paid as long because as you see is like, “How did you guys do this for the budget? Looks great.
Beth Accomando: I was working on some student film and stuff and on one project a producer set aside a half hour to do 10 zombies. Then I was working on another film where the guy who was setting everything up was a makeup guy, and so he allowed like two hours to do like three zombies, so it’s just the different attitude is such a difference.
Todd Masters: It does. Yeah, I think that because their fans at the [phonetic] [01:01:55] Jonra, they understand the impact of some of the stuff we make would be in the film. A lot of people they just see it is – I hate to say it but sometimes they see it as door sign, “We just spent that much on this one we need to put this amount of that on screen to make it pay it off.” That’s where you get kind of all decision, methods of making things and maybe indecision in film, big movies since you have so many executives trying to make one decision, often times they panic visual effects so it can be done afterwards and figure out later and that’s where you kind of see some things maybe don’t really fit.
With practical facts, with things that you’re actually shoot on the stage, on the set, you really need a plan in advance, you need to respect the art form that in the time that maybe it will take and if you do that, it won’t really add to your film schedule, the game, we need this movie in 15, it’s not any shorter than the avengers, you know [laughter], it’s the same length. I’m not going to say that we have the same amount of effects as avengers but we have quite a bit of stuff there that was done all by design and because Jane and Sylvia Soska had asked to this art form of monsters and makeup effects, they were very specific about, “Let’s see this. I want to see the cut and I want to make it feel believable.” They were really into the physicality of the work and it was fun to achieve it that way and it was fun to actually have them say, “No, you should really spend extra time on this because it’s going to be close up and this is really going to pay off on this” and they’d done the art form very well, so it was great to work with them at that level.
Beth Accomando: Can you talk a little bit about the difference kind of in the gore in the sense of the way they use it and the way like, a lot of people in their heads I think like if it’s really gruesome, its torture form. So can you talk a little bit about kind of the difference in how like there was kind of graphic elements are used?
Todd Masters: Yeah, in a sense first films they’re talking… it’s a little Bulgarish and it didn’t work out, blood effects are a little brighter, it’s kind of done for a different effects in American Mary. American Mary is a real story of this medical student and you really get into her head and that’s a lot of fun to go through a character’s ride especially the way she kinds of deeps under the underbelly of society. So, they were really smart about how and when they revealed blood or blood gags and it was really interesting to watch…blood gag, and effects and things like they’re almost like punches in a boxing film, you know, you want to play them at a specific time to get most impact. This was not something that I had to tell them about, this was something that they came in and knowing after watching so many movies, how and why things worked and by maybe being on the outside looking in a little more than, for instance someone like me who has been on the in so much and to just kind of we look at dead things like silicone, fake blood [laughter] it’s rubber. They’re looking at it for a different effect and they’re really understood how to play this and how to not overexpose the gore, because sometimes it’s like the showgirls, they show so many boobs that you kind of get sick of it, you know, it’s kind of the same thing actually.
If you show too much blood at the wrong time it's never going to give the effect that you want to give and when you’re playing the character that goes through a dramatic arc, that key because you need to be able to live within this person's experience and by getting the punches and the jabs, so to speak, at the right time it was actually a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to see how they were playing their cards and it was really good about it, really smart about it. They had kind of a reputation for doing all horrific stuff, a lot of blood, but they’re smart about it, they don’t just pour blood all over the stage. They actually set it up and deliver.
Beth Accomando: From what I understand, because it does deal with underground surgeries, some of the gore that is being shown is stuff that people are kind of willingly submitting themselves to, is that part of it? Does that kind of change what the horror aspect of it is?
Todd Masters: Absolutely. Some of the characters in American Mary are doing this because they’re actually interested in it, which takes a really odd… because we’re in Mary's mind and we’re trying to experience the film through her and she's very curious about this part like the audience is, it really does take a spin on the horrific elements of it and it gets you that much more intimate on it. I mean everybody is a little squeamish about blades and being cut and these are very strong symbols in most of our minds because we’ve all had those experiences or maybe had the vision of someone being cut or someone in surgery, we all kind of associate that this is some hardcore stuff. So when you're actually able to kind of transport yourself, to kind of like the twins would say, “Perve someone like this,” and we see believable surgery it really does change the horrific elements, you feel almost like a personal connection to that, you almost feel like you’re getting that. That was the classic gore cutting of the cow, I remember that from… I can’t really remember that film school or…
Beth Accomando: Shenandoah Loo?
Todd Masters: Yeah, it’s like that.
Male Speaker 1: Uno Shenandoah Loo.
Todd Masters: Thank you. Can you just say that… I just said exactly what he said and I’m as smart as he is [laughter].
Beth Accomando: Well film.
Todd Masters: Thanks, but yeah, the same thing. It’s like you feel it, you actually experience that no matter how silly that cow is, the gore is or whatever they actually used, it’s like obviously not a human heart, but we have to have a human heart. So it’s like a punch, saw black emulsion last night.
Beth Accomando: That’s okay [laughter].
Todd Masters: The analogy of the afternoon [laughter].
Beth Accomando: I was just thinking that one of the scenes that… I don't generally turn away from films, you know, but there was the documentary – I forget the name of it – but It was about a porn star and she let them film her liposuction and it was just like the sound and in the person doing it was just like shoving this and you’re just looking like--
Todd Masters: Just like a job [laughter].
Beth Accomando: Are people willingly subject themselves to that?
Todd Masters: The closer these associations are in life experience, the more pain we might feel towards, so you might actually tap that. I was designed mostly with that mind and it’s like HR gear always like… we always talk about gear and like the design alien and all of that, he was really smart about not just how it was designed but also how this really got filmed, the first alien just by revealing little tight teeth and slippy slams, he was hitting all the associations that we all are afraid of. The thing about any monster whether it’s rubber or pixels, it's a lot less about how much you see. You really do kind of want to tease audiences with an associations. So in a case giger’s alien, it was like sharp teeth and drippy stuff, it was all these stuff that was teased and it never really showed until the end of the unicorn just playing, but throughout the movie you’re building your head and these are scary monsters in your head that you’re going to see through your eyes. It’s all there, you want to kind of tease in these cases and use these associations to the benefit of the horror film.
The great thing about film or surgery is that everybody is sort of familiar with what that type of direct pain would be. So if we can make it believable, make the audience feel it, then it really heightens the experience.
Beth Accomando: Now, one of the things they have mentioned to me is that they did a mix of kind of statics and also using some real people who'd had some body modification. So how is it working at something that you’re kind of where there is that kind of a mix which is not that frequent in film, I don’t think?
Todd Masters: Let’s see… one of the ways of dealing with this level of detail and reality, you really do have to make your visual skin really look like a visual skin. So I mean the bottoms’ already there. When you actually have people that are… they’ve actually done these things that are in real life. It was new to me because I had not really explored this world, so I was fascinated by it and I actually had no idea that there was as in-depth as it was. So actually it was a great challenge because here’s a shop that used to make a lot of fantasy characters and fantasy characters are usually going checking and the shaping faces and using the designer face and all that. There's a particular direction you go in terms of design like if you want to make something evil your brows are usually angled. There’s certain base rules, when you deal with something like this where it’s actually… it's kind of somebody else designing on a human face. It opened up different images for me, all of a sudden that was like, “Wait a minute. That's something that I probably would have designed,” as you develop your license over the years you basically go off your reference, a reference I hadn’t played with yet. It was a lot of fun to actually start kind of exploring that side of it and to try to make our stuff seem as believable as possible, so that married very well, I had not intended [chuckles].
Beth Accomando: Because the only thing I could really think off hand that kind of married that was like going all the way back to Todd Browning's freaks before you get this sense of you’re not sure?
Todd Masters: Yeah, I’m still not sure of Todd Browning's [laughter] freaks, actually I know they’re quite a few of them where they’re actually real performers.
Soundtrack: “We will make you one of us. A loving cup, a loving cup. We accept that one of us. We accept that one of us. Guba Gabo, guba, Gabo. We accept it, we accept it guba Gabo, guba Gabo. One of us. One of us. Guba Gabo, guba Gabo. They’re going to make you one of them. It might be tough.”
Todd Masters: I haven’t had trouble watching that movie and I never had time watching American Mary but yeah, you’re right. It’s very similar. I actually very much enjoyed American Mary I still haven’t seen the final but I’ve seen the earlier cut. If you can like it early kind of a movie, you know you’re on the right track. There is a certain level if discomfort that you get with surgical matter and I wasn't put off by it. It was all hard. It was [indiscernible], I’ll just say that and it should be a lot of fun to see how everybody else stake pick out of it.
Beth Accomando: I’m not sure how the story plays out but on a certain level it sounds like they're not being judgmental of the people who kind of go through these underground surgeries?
Todd Masters: Right, we actually had that on set too. Everybody on set was really cool, it was really a good group of artists and film makers doing it for the right reasons but we all kind of wanted to make sure that if someone came in and they had a type of surgery that this is the real perspective and this is the choice that they made. As much as people make the choice of doing tattoos on their bodies or fixing their noses or whatever we do, it’s their own personal choice in a way that actually a big thing in the film. We’re all free to do whatever we want to do whatever we want to our bodies. We have technology now that allows you to do some pretty amazing things and whatever gets you through the night.
Beth Accomando: How does the kind of surgery that was stared in the film kind of play off of the plastic surgery that a lot of people do to make themselves just like look younger or just…
Todd Masters: There's a touch of that, I think I probably had too much details if I told you too much. But yeah, there’s a little bit of that which actually was a lot of fun because I’ve done makeups like that in the past there’s actually a character in white cheeks that I did that’s barely in the movie now, got pretty cut out film but it was along those lines, they kind of done more was a joke and in this case we were trying to bride that line and just trying to keep things surreal but still sort of real, you know. It was an interesting line to try to head up but I think it works really well.
Beth Accomando: For you, which is like more challenging and more difficult to actually achieve on film something like this where it’s kind of very much rooted in the real world or kind of creating these completely fantastical characters?
Todd Masters: Both approaches to these already have their own challenges so to speak, I mean, if we’re doing something hyper real like a ‘Six feet under’ or American Mary, the challenges’ actually almost kind of the reverse of making big monsters and fantasy films, the challenge in doing hyper real is to almost make people forget that there is effects people involved. Like when we were doing ‘Six feet under’ or ‘Five Seasons,’ we kind of had this – in Montreal - in a code that we were all kind of talking about as we wanted to make the dead bodies in the movie and it was – basically it’s a movie about prep at a funeral home. We want to make the bodies so believable that you kind of just forgot about them and when you it wasn't about, “Hey, look how cool we made a dead body or look how cool our face head stuff or fake body stuff is.” It was more like, “So what, there’s a body lying there,” kind of almost wanted people to forget it was artificial, maybe It’s an extra that just looks weird or something, and that make it about the effects.
That really, I think played well in ‘Six feet under’ and I think the same level plays well American Mary the level of believability I already said masters effect is so tight these days, we make flash that’s has little hairs growing on that is translucent like skin has capillaries, has blemishes, has all these things and it’s funny years ago we tried removing blemishes now we’re adding blemishes, just to make it that more believable. With HD film making, with film high definition with… we’re really looking at things that are higher-level now, our work has to be that much tighter and for it to be completely believable. And so it kind of this interesting challenge, it’s almost like the polar opposite side of the spectrum from making say ‘A big monster for frame’ or a ‘Werewolf’ or ‘Underground’. They still have to have hyper end of details because we’re still in the same eyeballs and still the same cameras, but in a way it's obvious that this ‘Werewolf’ that we’ve brought to stage of underworld is a fantastic character. So it’s kind of you want to make that bigger, drippier, earlier and the American Mary or the ‘Six feet underground’ is inside you want to cool place softer just be settled in, just kind of screwed it in without people noticing.
So it is a different mindset and its kind of thunder when both types of projects are happening at the same time [laughter], you know, it is interesting to see how everybody operates and on art form that’s meant for different types of impacts and different types of all response movies.
Beth Accomando: You've been in this industry for more than two decades. Do you see any change like you feel there’s any kind of a renaissance going on in practical effects with the shows like “Face-off’ that are focusing on it now DVD bonus features will have you known an entire feature ad explaining how these effects are done. Do you think that help to like create more interest, get more people involved in it or create more interesting in terms of what people audiences expectations are?
Todd Masters: Yeah, I think practical effect is making a big insurgence. I don’t really know if it really run away, there’s a lot of us that’s been kind of pushing it and kind of maybe delivering it a little differently, I mean, the shop has both practical and visual effects we like to mix it and we like to do it in a way that maybe the filmmakers sometimes don’t even know [chuckles] because it’s just part of the magic that we do and it’s kind of cool that when you see things like ‘Face-off’ and ‘Monster Man’ and there's some interesting Facebook sites like practical effects group and a couple others that just have litters of fans and filmmakers that are really interested in kind of the missing link.
We got our stuff and we still are, our staff is as technologically advanced as much as is digital film making and digital effects and you think about it and our materials are that much better and the electronics are that much better, the what we integrate visual effects and practical are much better. So I think that's partially do for practical effects coming back it makes it easier and more available for film makers, but in the other end I think there’s film makers like ask because their fans and media that are actually saying, “you know what, I don't want to push a button and get a dinosaur, I want really actually give me something real and when I have to, I’ll make residing thing,” or, “We’re actually doing some shows and even have slow-motion at it again.” There’s actually an interesting level.
We always talk about it like the… if you can imagine the cave men being attached by the saber tooth tiger and he’s just right in the near death jaws of the damn thing and bigger tooth barring down. And then you go, “Wait a minute. Here a photo of that cyber tooth tiger, we’re going to shake it at you and get you just as scare.” It doesn't work. There's something really inherent about being able to believe something is actually physically there and not only that, it's better for directors to direct something that's actually there and for actors act against something that’s actually there. As we found out in many cases, it's really difficult for people to shadowbox and shadow act and shadow direct and we did a series of mission men commercial years ago and it was half practical and half digital. It was fantastic, it was great to see something actually grab something physical movement and in a case of mission time, you know, and actually you could see him squeeze it. In the areas that was difficult for practical to do was like the face, the facial features are wanted very squashy, stretchy, very taxi all the ways, so digital domain that this great ‘Face-off' that was never be able to be done practically, even with ‘12 puppeteers days in the world, it wouldn’t be like that, so it's a different day for film effects and as is there’s going to be more demand for fantasy film obviously we’ve seen quite a few that summer that are really breaking box office, these are effects films as we’ve seen more of these escapism, they’re going to be asking for more and more effects and it's going to need to be something that really ups the experience I think because so many people that are interested in fantasy entertainment are also gamers. They’re getting used to the processor, they’re getting used to the perfection machine, if you like to call it, and there’s just not enough chaos in digital world. They try to add chaos but it's just better to have it practically.
You see the Bat mobile’s are a great example, the new batman films, it crashes through the garage and pieces fly over, that actually happen a miniature and you get a lot of stuff for free and it looks real, because it’s real. You actually try to sit down and figure out the type of chaos that would happen to an explosion this instance, chances are good that maybe you’ll have that cyber tooth tiger effect now you’ll kind of go, “Who, buga buga.” It's just not going to work as we’ve figured out, we’ve caught it up and we’ve caught up to the trend. If you know the magicians, he’s behind the curtains but he’s exposed. So, I think that's a big reason and it’s fantasy ‘Face-off’ and it’s fun to see all these shows really start to take a new look at the bright world of makeup effects.
Beth Accomando: Now, the film going to Con, what you think about that? Are you surprised it's going there, do you think it might--
Todd Masters: No.
Beth Accomando: No? You think it fits there or it deserves it?
Todd Masters: Not really shoots at Con [laughter]. Con, you know. I think it’s great because the ladies have not been to Con that should be a lot of fun, they bring a type of energy everywhere they go, so I wish I was a fly on the wall. Con is the greatest emission for the independent market, even still and it’s a great gathering of filmmakers that want to go to the beach and watch movies so the Soska’s aren’t very good on the beach but they’re going to be great with the movie side of it and I don’t think they do a lot of beach [laughter], we’ll see.
This is a type of movie that different for instance it's a unique approach launches filmmaking but to the subject matter and there won’t be another movie like it and there certainly won’t be filmmakers like these two there, they’re totally be different than everybody else that likes all that stuff. I heard that they’re going to have a great experience in this, I think the film will surprise a lot of people.
Beth Accomando: And can you say what your next project is about or is that under rest?
Todd Masters: We have developed a werewolf movie together as well as a couple of other properties that we’re doing, we’re pitching a TV series and we have a werewolf thing that we developed when we were shopping around and a couple of other things and we have a lot of fun together. They’re really talented ladies and they obviously really like all the toys and our crap that we have so it’s a good mix and we hope to do a lot more together.
Beth Accomando: What kind of a werewolf? Can you give any preview of…
Todd Masters: It’s a Canadian werewolf [laughter]. It’s a funs story that I developed and I pitched them one day as we were driving the highways of Los Angeles and they were in post-production of America Mary and because they have so much creativity like just sipping out of their pockets twice, I heard they just like immediately said, “Love this and we want to take this and run with this, we’ve developed this thing together,” they started writing it and it was kind of odd, we all have our jobs that we’re doing, the shops are always busy and they cutting the films and they have all sorts of things going on. It was kind of amazing all those script materialized and it was really good, I’m like, “Wait where did this come from?” And they were all like the place and we did a little referral to it and we had a lot of fun meeting over developing the art and we just started walking around and we had some really good interesting so it's kind of the thing that… yeah there are zombies out there, vampire movies out there, we do some ourselves and I think that’s our sprint to dead and done. We’ve had some really great vampire projects, I mean, true blood is fantastic and there’s some rally great vampire shows.
But as far as werewolf goes, I could really use a werewolf movie like the old days. This is me personally talking. I want a really good werewolf movie. I haven't seen one since the howling, the recent howling and the original American werewolf in London, movies that you actually believe that there's a real werewolf, run around tearing people up, you don't see that unfortunately. There was a great werewolf incurred in the woods and I thought that was like the best part of the whole movie. Werewolves are just a great element that we both developed in the film. They’re almost like these -- they’re a little bit of an analogy to draw our own in a wild side and this takes a good look at some teenage characters that are coming-of-age and learning there in the wild and it’s a lot of fun.
So we’ve had a lot of fun developing not just as a film property but also in the effects line it’s obviously very important for us to the monsters look as cool as the script in the direction so this is going to be a kickass werewolf for me.
Beth Accomando: Hey, what happened to that werewolf film? I need to bring that up with the Soska’s the next time I talk to them. I did get a chance to speak to the twins a few days later by Skype. It took a little while to get the call going, because fire alarms had been going off in their building.
Sylvia Soska: Hey.
Beth Accomando: Hello?
Sylvia Soska: Hi, how are you?
Beth Accomando: I’m good, how are you doing?
Sylvia Soska: I’m so good not to the fucking alarm is gone [laughter]. Oh my God, it was horrible, Beth, it was horrible and apparently I have all the apartments that connected so no matter where they were, all alarms just keep fucking going off it was like hell [laughter] I’ve had a lot of suits in this building.
Beth Accomando: First of all, if you can talk a little more freely, how would you describe this film?
Sylvia Soska: I would describe this film as more of a thoughtful horror. I find a lot of times when people are make anything in the horror genre, they almost look at it like they’re looking at making like pornography because they think as long as you have the money, shots, you have somebody getting killed and a bunch of murder, and you have some tits and some funny one-liners here and there, they don't really feel that you have to put more of an effort into it. It’s really a shame because Jen and I grew up watching horror films and there were some of the most intelligent, well thought out, interesting films out there and now it just feels like the soul of the genre has been sucked out with all these remakes and all these things and focus more in box office and actual content. So it’s really important to us to make a horror film the yes it’s a horror film but at the same time it's a film that has horrific things that happen in it.
It’s completely different from ‘Dead hooker in a trunk’ and I would say it’s the polar opposite stylistically in every way this film is very much influenced by foreign films like European films and Asian cinema that we find have a lot of very fresh cool stylistic approaches to horror where unfortunately more you seen in North American cinema you see the remakes and you see the slashers and it almost gets to the point where the slasher is what people consider a horror movie but I consider a horror movie anything with horrific aspects to it, I mean, I saw the devil that's a horrifying film but it's not a slasher by any means.
Jen Soska: No, even independent film like ‘Fat girl’ the whole movie plays like a Lolita until the last 15 minutes and it's one of the most horrific endings I've ever seen in a film and it's a horror film.
Beth Accomando: One of the thing that Todd and I talked about was, what’s the difference between using makeup effects and, you know, the precise effect that he did that can be very explicit versus what is so commonplace now in just like kind of torture porn stuff? What's the difference in kind of… like how are you guys approaching the way you use those kind of visual effects that kind of makes you stand out as different from the more mainstream horror?
Sylvia Soska: A lot of times I find effects like a lot of blood in really gory prosthetics are used in lieu of having a story in lieu of having something happen there because it gives you a certain visceral feeling when you see these kinds of images and there's not much in thought put into the rest of it. For us the prosthetics and the effects and I even a special character actors that we had come out specifically for this film, they’re part of the story, they’re written into actually be part of the storytelling elements to not have them there would be kind of ridiculous and also you don't necessarily always know you're looking at a prosthetic when you watching American Mary. It's funny because we have some actors in the film that wore prosthetics through the entire film and some of them knew them because they are well known within the city and people were like. “Oh Winston is coming,” and I’m like, “I’m sorry to hear, she's been here every day. She's right over there,” like, “That’s Tristan? We thought that was just some chick with all that shit done to her face?” It’s like, “Well, technically, you're not wrong.”
Jen Soska: Because we blend actual physical, surgical, changes with prosthetics, you could never going to be 100% sure when you're looking at a prosthetic in this film or if you're looking at somebody that actually has something physically changed about them. I think it's a lot more difficult to do a film like this where you don't pour blood over the prosthetics, anyone can tell you essentially make a prosthetic artist. If you don't have a good prosthetic or if you got rushed or whatever, just put a fucking shit ton of blood and gore and nobody's going to notice but with masters effects and you’re so, so talented, you can look at a prosthetic and you’ll have no idea it was a prosthetic. There is a day Console and I have a cameo on the phone that I was wearing a piece for a apart that, you know, I need to have some violence done against me and everyone was saying, “Why are you taking so long in make up? Your sister's done. Why are you an hour and a half?” And I was like, “Actually, all of this, is not real. It looks like me but it's not me there's a whole bunch of blood and shit going on underneath.”
Beth Accomando: This was hard.
Sylvia Soska: Absolutely and it kind of bothers me how horror is nowadays because we used to watch horror movies with my mom all the time she's one who got us really into them, and she just doesn’t’ like horror movies as much she did. She said she doesn’t want us to see all the scores, she would like to have some sort of a story also in… there's nothing wrong with garlic, martyrs is one of my most favorite films because it has a place in the film. In this we didn't want it to just be like a shock jock kind of film, we wanted it to be a horror film that you don’t necessarily have to look away from. Although there is one scene where I think we kind of pushed the boundaries because we got a test audience screening, we had one of the audience members actually had to leave because she was getting physically ill watching the film but she still filled out the form saying how much she loved it she hated herself for not being able to view the whole thing. That was a dream come true for sick fucks like us.
Jen Soska: Oh yeah and throw up watching her run out screaming, that's the dream.
Sylvia Soska: I’m so upset by this content [laughter].
Beth Accomando: You brought up ‘Martyrs’ and one of the things that I thought was interesting in that film was, there are actually a couple of times where you feel you want to turn away because it's very explicit and yet it's not necessarily the moments where the violence is an act of cruelty because there that scene where they like take out the screws from that like mask you’re saying and it’s actually an act of kindness at that point. So I'm just wondering if those are kind of the twists that you're also doing as well, that it’s not necessarily, you know, standard gore in the sense of it's just an act of violence because you’re also doing the surgery here.
Sylvia Soska: I think a lot of this content, a lot of people don't really know about this certain world of surgery and all of this is very legitimate we actually had a flesh artist come in who specializes in doing these surgeries. He actually taught Catherine how he does his procedures and it was amazing to actually see this realism brought into the film. There's a few scenes for certain operations that people aren’t used to seeing that’s a bit strange and on Todd and his team were ridiculous like this is part where we have the sensation where you were cutting through flesh and you’re actually seeing the muscle, you see the blood sprays, you see everything. As a matter fact Jen was so excited about the prosthetics she showed it to me afterwards and she popped out something that was inserted and I thought I was going to be sick and I was like, “I know it's not real. I know it’s just a makeup [laughter].” I saw that gig applied but oh my God, the stomach that’s squirming.
Jen Soska: Oh, it’s smelly.
Sylvia Soska: Another real challenge with the surgical scenes in the film is the content of them is unwatchable. If you could shoot at a certain way and nobody could watch but it’s amazing the way we pulled it off with our cinematographer and the amazing effects and outstanding--
Jen Soska: Brian Pearson was amazing DP on this, he did a ‘Drive angry’ 3-D and he also worked on… what was that?
Sylvia Soska: kissed?
Jen Soska: Kissed, yeah. So he’s got a great eye for things in the thing was the content so many people even actually made that teaser trailer originally because everybody's thought we’re going to make like the biggest torture porn movie ever, and I fucking hate that phrase because as soon as they hear anything is a horror they say, “Oh, it’s just torture porn,” “Come on, sweetheart, there's some violence in it and it should be viscera, there should be horrific elements.
Sylvia Soska: But there should be intelligence too. I think that there are certain group of people that are making horror films like ‘Remakes’ and shit like that that are insulting the intelligence of the horror films.
Jen Soska: Yes.
Sylvia Soska: And yes, I see every horror movie that comes out but I just kind of have to because people will say, “Well, what did you think of ‘Human Centipede Two,’ and I can give my opinion intelligently. But there are people that think that you don't need a storyline, you don't need a plot, you don't need good acting, you just need some blood, some guts in the horror fence will just be happy, oh and a shitty lameness as fuck twist at the end.
Beth Accomando: Oh God. Guess who the killer was.
Sylvia Soska: Usually something in infinite could have best like the past 10 minutes and then I spend the rest of the movie me like, “That’s not going to be the ending, that would be so… Oh that it is.”
Beth Accomando: I wanted to ask you, you do use some real people so that you blew that line between the makeup effects and what some people have really done. I can't really think of any films that you have done that except for maybe like I’ll have to go back all the way to ‘Freaks’, I mean, not like.
[Overlapping conversation] [1:35:24]
Sylvia Soska: I’m so glad you mentioned ‘Freaks’ because I felt was thrown around a lot on ‘American Mary’ they also did a little bit with ‘Jacob's ladder’ nearly did a little in the original thing but that was just with hiring amputees so that we could build prosthetics on them and have more of a realistic amputation during those scenes. But their content, the community in this film that Mary really gets involved in… there's never been a movie, a fictitious one like this featuring them like this before. The last person who almost did that was a Clive Barker where he was hanging around in the scene a lot and he based ‘Hell Raiser’ on it but instead of doing literal these people he did center bites which was a hell version which is more forgivable because you can have this kind of world of fantasy. I remember trying to pitch American Mary and we got passed on a lot, Beth, my good, we got passed on like nobody's business. The fact that the strength of the film but to be made is just a match to all the people who actually believed in it because this kind of thing isn't getting me right now but…
Jen Soska: The content alone of it was like, “I don't want to make it but I want first look at it when it's done,” it's like, “Come on now,” but I blame the recession.
Sylvia Soska: Because they're the real human beings and there's such a negative connotation… like I collect spiders and I was amazed the negative connotation with them because they’re really boring sweet little animals and everyone's like, “Oh, they’re this and they’re that.” They just make these assumptions so a lot of people in this community everyone says, “They’re ill, they’re mentally disabled, they’re crazy, they’re freaks, they’re at shock Johnson,” you know, but I'm sure in any group there's people like that but from what I’ve met, there are some of those sweetest, most secure, down-to-earth people I have ever met and I wish more people were like that. And so it was really important for us to represent them like this because at the end of the day this movie comes out and people will see it and will people be entertained by it. But at the same time these guys are going to live their life like this from now on and a lot of them just come out into this film and you actually see their life stop and how they choose to live their life and what they choose to do with their body. That doesn't end after the show is done. So you don't want to I monsterize these people, you want to actually give a bit of honesty and truth to what their life is like.
Jen Soska: A huge theme in American Mary is appearance are everything and the film in a big way is also a metaphor for our experiences in the film industry and I find that a lot of people that appear to be the people you should idolized and the people that are mentors and the people that should be heroes of yours aren’t. I've met some of the nicest, satanists in the world, absolutely. I've met so many people that you would say, “Oh my God, that guys is in the HA user. He’s a horrible person.” No, I've met doctors, professionals, producers, they’re way more monstrous…
Sylvia Soska: Monsters, yes.
Jen Soska: -- than any of these people. The people in the community that we deal with they often get these little witch-hunts against them to try to make them look like freaks but they have an amazing sense of identity and honesty and they’re the happiest, freest people I’ve ever met.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, and I think this is the subject that people talk about a lot but you don’t see them in the film too much where they always say that most vanilla nice seeming people are the most horrible people even meaner life and the people like, “Oh God I’m going to cross the street to avoid that person,” those people are probably the coolest, most --
Jen Soska: Absolutely.
Sylvia Soska: -awesome people to talk to.
Jen Soska: We’ve always felt a bit like outcasts ourselves and I’ve always been able to relate to the underdogs in the outcasts much more than the vanilla of the norm, the Empire folks [laughter].
Beth Accomando: Was ‘Freaks’ the film that you had seen and influenced you?
Sylvia Soska: Yes, definitely.
Beth Accomando: No, I do have to ask, you know, when Todd Browning did ‘Freaks’ and he did have this mix of using people that he knew… it nearly crushed his career [laughter]. Do you have any concerns about your approach to this and how it might impact?
Sylvia Soska: I think that with our work, as we learn from ‘Dead hooker in a trunk’ and it’s the kind of art that we like to do. Nobody is 100% on ‘Dead hooker’ and nobody is kind of, you know, lukewarm about it, either they passionately love it and want to have her children or they want to see you standing fucking hate us.
Jen Soska: Yeah.
Sylvia Soska: And I think that's going to… I like that. I don't think art is real art unless it has a strong emotional trigger from people and with American Mary I know they're going to be a lot of people that are not going to like film and there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to really have it speak to them. I don't think anyone should ever make a project to make everyone happy. You try to make everyone happy you’re going to end up with nobody happy. So instead we decided to cater the film to the people that we know would really speak to. I’m looking forward to some people asking me why I made this because I think a lot of people are, when they dislike something or they have a huge prejudice against it, it's usually from a lack of education or familiarity with the subject matter and sure there’s going to be some people who watch the movie who’ll hate it and even if I say anything they’ll completely hate it and disagree, but I'm hoping that there'll be some people that had no idea about this world and they’re going to watch the movie and they’re going to be like, “Hey, I don't really know that much about these people and maybe I was completely wrong, maybe I learned something.
Jen Soska: Absolutely. I would say the people in the community that we represent in the film, I think it’s illegal to do underground surgeries obviously…
Sylvia Soska: No, but we usually have medical student doing it.
Jen Soska: They do usually have medical students doing it.
Sylvia Soska: That’s so unrealistic to the context [laughter]. But we may do something to themselves, you know, that modification is because it's something they want to have done. If someone gets breast implants or gets a facelift, sure you can say it's for themselves and it's for their self-esteem, but it’s also building in stairway society, you know, accept as a form of beauty. They’re not doing it just because it's something they purely enjoy. They’re doing it because they’re fitting into what everyone wants you to look like fucking Barbie.
Jen Soska: Yeah. I'm glad we have a Barbie in this.
Sylvia Soska: We do.
Jen Soska: She’s the scariest one.
Sylvia Soska: I love her lines.
Jen Soska: Me too.
Sylvia Soska: We’re going to climb after us?
Jen Soska: No we’re not [laughter].
Sylvia Soska: [indiscernible] [1:42:05] black dresses for pink.
Jen Soska: No, we believe like the twins [laughter].
Beth Accomando: That should be your Halloween costume.
Sylvia Soska: That would be hilarious.
Jen Soska: It always scared me.
Sylvia Soska: You get a little Chihuahuas--
Jen Soska: Oh little mini pinchy mini in places.
Sylvia Soska: Oh God [laughter].
Beth Accomando: Now you guys are screening your film at the Con market, right?
Sylvia Soska: Yes.
Jen Soska: Yes we are.
Beth Accomando: As I understand there are no women represented in the actual, like in competition at Con, is that correct?
Jen Soska: That’s absolutely correct and I was reading this article and they were saying that --
Sylvia Soska: Three years in a row?
Jen Soska: Yeah. I think like five and I was just completely shocked and then they said that women weren’t making films and I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Sylvia Soska: Come on now.
Jen Soska: Women aren’t making films, like we didn’t make it for the deadline but I know not all of other female filmmakers that did make it into the deadline and they just weren’t selected. It was kind of a bomber and I know there hasn't been a Canadian filmmaker in there for a while and we were really trying to get there and in time because of how cool it would have been representing little Canada because were in a service country, a lot of productions come here but we don't make our own content very often. It felt that it was a big issue of pride for me and especially because of the stigma that women don't make movies and women don't like horror movie. I wanted to be like, “No man, women do like horror movies, and we do make horror movies, like this one.”
Sylvia Soska: I don’t know where that, “Women don't like horror movies,” craziness has come from. I think a majority of horrified I think is something like 60%ish are women. Who said we don't like them?
Jen Soska: Horror is like a chick flakes to me.
Sylvia Soska: Okay. All the victims are usually women, the one that kills everyone final girl, it’s a woman.
Jen Soska: It’s amazing.
Sylvia Soska: It would be weird like the final girl was guy.
Jen Soska: Dude.
Sylvia Soska: That would be kind of cool.
Jen Soska: Actually I do that. I totally do it a final guy, this little virginal guy.
Sylvia Soska: We have to put him in a wet tonk tattoo the whole film now.
Jen Soska: No, the last acts.
Sylvia Soska: The last act [laughter].
Beth Accomando: You had mentioned a little bit about you’re going to have like a special screening room for Mary?
Sylvia Soska: Oh yes, an auto booth, we have a screen and a theater that's always available but on the 17th we’re actually going to be at that grade Dolby on hotel warehouse --
Beth Accomando: Excuse our French.
Sylvia Soska: Oh my… if you’ll excuses my français not good.
Beth Accomando: Just en retard [phonetic] [01:44:36].
Soska: No that means, I'm late. We’re using it wrong.
Beth Accomando: Her français is very not good. Very not good but I’ll…
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, so we’re having a private screening – oh my gosh - so this time next week it would've happened, it will be on the 17th at 8 pm.
Beth Accomando: 8 pm?
Sylvia Soska: It’s actually going to be our first time actually being in a room with people during screenings and I’ve had a few people like we had our sound guy coming in and he had read the script and he hadn’t seen anything and it was really cool to hear him gasping and laughing and be like, “Oh my God. What the fuck is going on in this?” That’s kind of the reaction I’m hoping for although I know, I swear to God, we’re so nervous that, I mean, we’re sitting there and until I hear any reaction from cottam I’d be like, “Oh my God, they hate it, they hate it. Oh God.”
Jen Soska: Anytime I watch any film of ours with the audience an equal parts, horrified and deliriously happy [laughter].
Beth Accomando: That a horrible way to be.
Jen Soska: It is. Just sit there they wanting to throw up and share at the same time, that doesn’t go well together.
Sylvia Soska: No.
Beth Accomando: After it has that initial screening, did you say you have like some room set up like for you’re kind of laughed in versions of movie screenings?
Jen Soska: Yeah, absolutely. We work at the B3 Riviera booth.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah, and we have our own theater so we can do a special screenings for people because a lot - oh my gosh -- everyone is so busy at Con, I hear it’s just like nonstop insanity so anyone who misses a screening on that day we’re planning on having a special screenings over the booth and we can hang out in there and then we can be like a Q&A, getting to talk to people.
Jen Soska: And I hate to be a total heartbreaker but we have a fucking kick ass…
Sylvia Soska: Oh my God. A con exclusive training of American Mary.
Jen Soska: I’m sorry, I should try to listen to you.
Sylvia Soska: -and the one believes it’s so badly because it’s like my kid just graduated from med school and I’m like, “Look how good he is. He’s single.”
Jen Soska: I watched that and I’m like wow, I really want to see that movie. It turned out really good and I'm so proud of Katie Catherine as well, she was really a phenomenal in the film. All the cast is amazing into new Antonio Cupo, Tristan Risk, Paula Lindberg, Twan Holiday but, oh my gosh, it how we got so lucky they were just… the performances you get in here you would think we had so much money and so much time, of which we had none [laughter].
Sylvia Soska: We got a little more than dead a girl [laughter].
Beth Accomando: But Katie, when you see the film…
Katie: When I get to see the film…
Jen Soska: Absolutely.
Sylvia Soska: But the role of Mary Mason is not an easy one at all. She’s really put through the ringer emotionally and physically, mentally definitely and I know she was having some hardships.
Katie: No, I couldn't believe it and sometimes I will watch some scenes and I'll be like, “I can't believe I did that to one of my best friends. I'm a horrible person than she is.”
Sylvia Soska: She looks awesome. She looks awesome when she suffers. She’s so pretty when she suffers.
Beth Accomando: Okay. I really appreciate your time and I can’t thank you enough.
Sylvia Soska: I’m so sorry about the fucking alarms this morning. It was like, Jesus Christ.
Jen Soska: I thought it was going to kill someone badly seriously.
Beth Accomando: I’m almost thinking it would be great to be talking to you in certainly like alarms start going off it will be like--
Sylvia Soska: All it would have been [overlapping conversation] [00:47:55] The twins [laughter], I was dangerous.
Katie: They’re about to screen the film that caught it. Oh my God [laughter].
Jen Soska: They used to setting their apartment on fire no big.
Beth Accomando: Yeah, exactly. Thank you so much and all the best of luck at Con.
Jen Soska: Thank you so much Beth.
Sylvia Soska: Thank you so much, Melina. You know how everything goes in getting anything we can as soon as we can.
Beth Accomando: The next interview I got with this Soska’s also ended up in bed. I guess this was kind of habit for me. But this time it was at FrightFest in London on August 26, 2012. I need you to get the low down on the con screening, the Soska’s were putting on their makeup even though it was just an audio interview. It's only audio.
Sylvia Soska: I know [laughter]. They should see us for a radio show.
Beth Accomando: You get on only that.
Sylvia Soska: I’m still, let me check my makeup between, it’s like, “No one cares.”
Jen Soska: We’ll have a video feed one day and the radio show will make sense then...
Beth Accomando: Checking in now on American Mary. So, tell me where you guys are and what’s happening.
Sylvia Soska: Wow, we have the exciting news out. We knew for a while now but a Universal is internationally distributing American Mary were it is a fucking thrill because they're responsible for so much iconic core that we just grew up lovingly, ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Wolman’ that have our Mary in that family monsters as it huge honor, they’re the ones that brought us out here to FrightFest where there is a very special screening tomorrow at 11 am of American Mary in the main stage which is audience of 1400 people's. I’ve never seen so many people in front in anything and I’ve never had Mary playing from such a big crowd and we’re here, Katie’s here, are John and Tracy are detective Dolor also flew in so we’re pretty fucking thrilled.
Jen Soska: And we’re going to be announcing our world premiere of American Mary soon. I can't say what festival got into but it's one of the biggest Shauna festivals in the world if not one of the biggest festivals in the world and it’s -- I can't say what festival it is but it's an absolute privilege for American Mary to be premiering there.
Sylvia Soska: We’re really in this cool place where we know a lot of really cool stuff is happening with also like it comes out in a certain way, in a certain times. I'm really excited there’s going to be a lot of festivals coming up so were getting an opportunity to meet a lot of people, it’s just kind of like the coolest thing in the world is almost like build theater days when you're on staging CBR things right away now and getting the same experience at the movie.
Jen Soska: Oh, absolutely, the best in the world, oh my God I wish they would just walk over to us could you see them holding their little ‘Dead hooker’ DVD thing and they’re just standing there just like so far but I see them in my peripheral and is like, “Come here, come here. I see you, I want to sign it, I'd be happy to sharpen my fucking purse, please just coming here.”
Sylvia Soska: She hasn’t pulled out the purse sharpie at usually are very well prepared to have their own sharpies…
Jen Soska: They have the color that they want… I forgot to ask the first person if they wanted it personalized but all of them doing none of them will tell you.
Sylvia Soska: It’s exciting, it’s really exciting. I’m excited to see how they react to Mary because it's a very different film from ‘Dead Hooker’, so I’m just wondering, I don't even know what they—
Jen Soska: The press has been very kind, the press – like you Beth – you’ve been very kind [laughter] very kind.
Beth Accomando: Actually when I talked to you is before you had left for Con, so what kind of reception did you get at Con with the film?
Sylvia Soska: Con we had a worldwide market premiere and I didn't really understand what the difference between the market screening and a festival screening is. Essentially a festival screening is much larger and you have the fans there as well and I was warned before I went by one of the jurors from fantastic fests she said, “I never recommend filmmakers actually even going because it can be so discouraging they’re just mainly as distributors, buyers, studios, reviewers and they're not there to have a good time they’re there to see if the movie can make money or not.” So he said in his history of going, he's never heard any reactions may be three reactions at different screenings all throughout people are in and out and it was in the evenings and he said it’s going to be scarcely attended. But it was a packed theater, people laughed and reacted to the entire thing -- I forget the amount but I remember counting…
Jen Soska: 30 times.
Sylvia Soska: 30 laughs.
Jen Soska: We had one lady walking out during a moment I would call like a radical feminism it's like burning your bra but to [Overlapping conversation] [1:52:30].
Sylvia Soska: So I wanted to chase after her, she got off and she ran out shaking her head and I was like, “No, come back. Five people got up to and left, one was the woman the other four were the bathroom and he came running back and there is one guy on his cell phone during the entire thing and I was like, “What a fucking douche bag,” and then afterwards he apologizes, he’s like, “I was just telling my partner he was an idiot for not coming to the screening.”
Jen Soska: They sat through all for the credit.
Sylvia Soska: They sat to the end of the credit, they must have thought it was going to be like a Schwama joke at the end or something.
Jen Soska: Well the ‘American Mary’ Schwama joker had it out…
Sylvia Soska: We had to.
Jen Soska: It didn’t make sense.
Sylvia Soska: Yeah.
[Overlapping conversation] [1:53:06]
Jen Soska: They were really kind and I keep waiting for somebody to hate it but I feel very lucky right now because everyone's been so supportive and so kind. Well, it's not just like a fictitious may come up, there's a lot of our reality and especially with the body-mind community, so it was really important for us to represent them in a proper way and I believe we did that. I’m very much excited see how they feel and other people that can relate to it because I mean everybody's judged on appearances and this is a movie that really plays on them.
Sylvia Soska: Absolutely, even though we were developing the script we sent it to Russ Fox who is our main a flesher consultant and Allen Reed who was very big church body modification. We just wanted to make sure that… because I don't like-- it's obviously not offensive film to them, I mean, if you're in the medical profession perhaps but we wanted to make sure that we were represent to get in the highest light, as ourselves always have felt like outcasts so naturally we’re drawn to taking care of our fellow underdogs and I really don't see the difference between body modification and plastic surgery actually I almost preferred body modification because plastic surgery can say you're trying to fit into someone else's ideal of beauty but if you perform, chances are you doing it just for yourself.
Jen Soska: Master’s effects are a great job because we had a lot of discussions about the plastic surgery aspect of it and that they made a -- you see these characters to have this like more considered acceptable cosmetic surgery and I find their looks very much more creepy than anything you got from the mod community, so it was really cool.
Beth Accomando: Now with universal picking up ‘American Mary’, does that mean American Mary’s future is good in terms of reaching an audience now?
Sylvia Soska: You know it's funny we haven't announced anything that universal is planning but there's already a lot of speculation online obviously with a company like Universal which was so grateful and honored to be a part of a special since they're so behind the film. American Mary will be reaching a much wider audience than say ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’ perhaps what, and I take that from what you will but a lot more people are going to be seeing American Mary and one of the most important things about the film getting out there is kind of like with ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’ if people say they want to see American Mary if the reaction is strong, I mean, people think that there were doesn't mean anything but it means so much because, I mean, universal every studio looks online, they watch Facebook, they watch twitter, they check to see what the buzz is. So by just saying you want to see ‘American Mary’, you’re doing your part to see American Mary.
Jen Soska: I really hope people get behind and enjoy the film just because it's so unique and not like anything else out there as it can be successful then I think a lot of people are going to be like, “Oh, we don’t have to rehash this whole idea. We don't have to do a found footage fucking ghost movie for the nth time, we could just do an original idea maybe an original thought is cool again, maybe it's new trend of trying to do something that you haven’t seen before.”
Beth Accomando: Okay. That’s great.
Sylvia Soska: Thank you.
Beth Accomando: That was my last interview with the Soska’s about American Mary. Miguel Rodriguez and I brought the film to San Diego in 2013. It’s easily one of the top horror films directed by a woman, right up there with Kathryn bigelow's near dark Jennifer cancel bob at duke and Mary Karen’s, American psycho. As always, I look forward to what they have coming next, but I do hope they take some time for a very personal, very twisted horror film of their own. Thanks for listening to another edition of KPBS listener supported cinema junkie podcast. Till our next film fixed, I’m Beth Accomando, your residence cinema junkie.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place