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Slamdance '05 Interview: 'All Souls Day' Director Jeremy Kasten

by Scott Weinberg

The "All Souls Day" Pitch: A small town in Mexico is haunted by its past and when a group of friends find themselves stranded in this mysterious town on the Day of the Dead, they must uncover its sinister secret before it's too late.

"Zombie ghost story during spooky Mexican holiday."

Will this be your first time at Slamdance? If not, what else have you been to Park City with?
This WILL be my first time at Slamdance. This will be my first time in Utah, at all, for that matter. I am excited both for my first Slamdance experience and for my first opportunity to go to a Mormon rave.

When you were 14 years old, if someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would your answer have been?
It would have been precisely what I am doing: directing independent horror films.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
I got my first movie camera for my seventh birthday. I saved allowance for film and processing all throughout childhood and made movies seasonally. Film school was the obvious place to go from there (an utter waste of money, methinks now) and I moved out to Los Angeles right afterwards. I had already worked as a PA on a few studio films and was horrified to see that guys my dad's age were career-assistants and such so I started working in low budget straight-to-video movies. I soon found myself at the fore of the video/digital revolution as an editor and was able to (barely) make a living editing feature films by working crazy-cheap.

How have things changed for you since your film was accepted into the festival?
I am really, really busy: Busy trying to keep my day-job and finish the post-production on the film AND busy getting ready to promote the film.

When you were shooting the film, did you have Slamdance (or film festivals in general) in mind?
Yes and no. I try not to think about anything other than the final audience when I am making the movie: the audience beyond the film festivals. Before shooting the film, while location scouting, I recall the writer/producer, Mark Altman, actually said "wouldn't it be perfect if we could premiere the film at Slamdance?" Of course I enthusiastically agreed and, yes, this festival IS perfect for this film.

How did you get your film started? How did you go from script to finished product?
All Souls Day sort of came to me, actually, and in truth, it came together ridiculously quickly as these things go. Mark Altman, the writer/producer, came to me about a year ago and told me about the project. I was immediately interested as the Mexican day of the dead is something I have always felt was untapped for horror movies. He had a loose screenplay and we started developing and rewriting it together. The financing came together at the end of the summer and we had about three weeks of preproduction. We shot the film in seventeen days at two motion picture ranches in the Los Angeles area. The interiors were shot in an 1890's Spanish-style hacienda on one ranch, and the exteriors were shot at another ranch that has a standing Mexican town set.

What’s the one glaring lesson you learned while making this film?
I learned that second meals should always be better than first meals.

When you were in pre-production, did you find yourself watching other great movies in preparation?
I watched several Mexican-themed horror films. Tombs of the Blind-Dead, a bunch of the 60's films from the Mexican horror director Coffin Joe and, of course, Alejandro Jodorowsky. I watch The Wizard of Oz last before I make a movie, always.

If a studio said ‘we love this, we love you, you can remake anything in our back catalogue for $40m’ – what film, if any, would you want to remake?
The Wizard of Oz. But I'd need a [lot] more than $40m.

Two parter – name an actor you'd KILL to work with, and then name an actor in your own film that you really think is destined for great things.
I would kill to work with Lon Chaney or Vincent Price but they are dead. I had the good fortune to have an actor that was hired as an "extra" to play a non-speaking role who was amazing. Her name is Amina Islam and she was hired without my having auditioned her. The actress who was supposed to play the role turned out to be sort of nuts and the extras casting person sussed her out and fired her first. Unfortunately, I was already busy shooting and had to trust my extras casting person to find a replacement. Amina showed up and was fantastic. I ended up writing scenes for her to appear in, including the opening credits.

The festival circuit: what could be improved? What's been your favorite part of the ride?
This will be my first film festival with All Souls Day. So far it has been a blast and it hasn't even started.

Have you ‘made it’ yet? If not, at what point will you be able to say ‘yes’?
I think success in Hollywood is defined by the ability to live elsewhere (at least part of the year) and still be able to get films financed. If this is attainable for me in the mode of, say, John Waters, making a film every 5-8 years and leading a comfortable life elsewhere, I will have made it.

A film is made by many people, including the director (of course), but you'll often see movies that open with a credit that says “a film by…” – Did you use that credit in your film? If so, defend yourself! If not, what do you think of those who do?
I take no issue with the auteur-style credit of "a film by": that is, if, in fact, the filmmaker truly is the "author" of the film. In the case of this film, I was brought onto a film that was conceived and authored, and though I was given the opportunity dream-up and change a lot and to have a very strong voice creatively in every aspect, I was not the author.


All Souls Day will premiere January 22nd, 2005 at the Slamdance Film Festival. Click here for more info!

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originally posted: 01/07/05 00:05:13
last updated: 01/12/05 08:40:01
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