by Jason Whyte
POD - At SxSW 2015
"POD is the story of a family intervention that rapidly spirals into an absolute nightmare. It's an intense, paranoid horror film that's covered in the fingerprints of The Twilight Zone, The Manchurian Candidate, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Mist." Director Mickey Keating on his film POD, which screens in the Midnighters section of the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?
This is actually my first ever festival experience and I couldn't be more excited to be at the screenings and share the experience with everybody!
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker.
I have wanted to make films my entire life. I grew up in Orlando, Florida and was rabidly obsessed with Halloween Horror Nights, which I guess sort of paved the way into horror for me. When I was in college, I interned for Larry Fessenden and his company Glass Eye Pix. The time I spent there really sculpted my sensibilities as a filmmaker because Fessenden is pretty much the definitive icon of artistically driven horror films. As soon as I graduated, I began working for Blumhouse Productions and shot my first feature RITUAL on weekends throughout September and October of 2012. We sold RITUAL to Lionsgate and After Dark Films in 2013 and I wanted to jump on that momentum and make POD right afterwards. I also shot another feature, DARLING, in November of 2014, produced by Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix.
How did your movie come together from your perspective?
I have had the idea of a family intervention that takes a horrific turn in the back of my head for some time now, but it wasn't until producer Will Day Frank mentioned in passing that his family had a lake house in the middle of nowhere, Maine, that the entire thing just fell into place. I'm very fascinated by building tension around characters involved with something WAY over their heads - dramatic tension that grows from spontaneity and bad decisions that we all make in the heat of the moment - and there's no place better for that all to go horribly wrong than in an isolated, snow-trapped lake house!
What was your process in getting the film together? Talk about your producing partners and key collaborators.
In true indie form, this film would've gone horribly wrong if it weren't for the insane efforts by producers Will Day Frank, Morgan White, and Sean Fowler. I had this insane idea for a movie that I was going to shoot in the coldest winter in Maine history, regardless of how it was going to happen, and they were totally there to support my vision and make it possible for me. Sean single-handedly drove over 2,000 miles to get cast and crew back and forth and back again from New York or Boston or Rhode Island, to Maine, to wherever they were flying out from. Will's family let me destroy their house for almost three weeks, and Morgan made the film a legitimate, professional endeavor. I think films like this live or die on the energy that's there while shooting and I couldn't have been luckier to have the most excited, devoted people work on this. It's kind of hard to connect all the pieces now, because sometimes a film just works when it's made in a hurricane, and I think this was one of those cases.
What was your greatest challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?
The film is entirely dependent on the characters in the film. We had scenes of 15-plus pages of dialogue and I thank my stars every day to have found somebody like Brian Morvant, who was able to bring life to a character as insane, unpredictable and outspoken as Martin Matheson, and for Dean Cates and Lauren Ashley Carter for being able to counter his depravity at every turn. On a technical level, we were just so far in the middle of nowhere that if something broke, we were done. We had very long steadicam takes outside, where the ground beneath our operator's feet was literally ice, but somehow it all worked out. But I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking "What if?"
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought "I had something"?
When I first ever spoke to Brian, we shared our love for TAXI DRIVER and he told me he'd shave his head on camera to look like Travis Bickle; he had such a firm grasp on the kind of lunatic I was trying to create that I knew we weren't going to be making your run-of-the-mill scary movie.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?
Honestly, I don't know. I just know that if I'm not making a movie I'm going absolutely insane. But black coffee helps. And beer. And always having a movie playing on the TV while we're cutting also helps for some reason.
I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.
When I met DP Mac Fisken, we were both about to graduate college and we really hit it off. He shot my first film RITUAL and we've been able to build this shorthand with one another that's been growing going on four films now. I storyboard every single shot beforehand and he's just incredible at taking my ideas and making them cinematic. We shot on the RED Scarlet, and the Canon C300 for the basement scenes. I wanted to make something in tune with the Silent Hill video games where the character is lit only by the bounce of their flashlight, and the C300 was just brilliant at making that a reality.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?
I feel like SxSW is just the pinnacle of daring and innovative films and I can't wait to see how the audience reacts to my film. Good, bad, whatever the reaction is, it doesn't matter, it's just an honor to be playing with such an amazing group of people.
After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?
We have been talking a lot to a ton of different folks, but right now I'm just excited to ride the SXSW wave until they kick me out and tell me to stop eating all their barbecue.
Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Any cinema that Ben Wheatley is sitting in. The dude is already a legend.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?
Have you guys seen HOSTEL?
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?
If you have to shoot a feature in your apartment, it's better than having never made a feature at all. And storyboard. Please, for the love of god, storyboard. Or at least plan how you're gonna make your days.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?
TAXI DRIVER. Or DAY OF THE LOCUST. Or SHOCK CORRIDOR. Or BOOGIE NIGHTS. Wait, what was the question?
Be sure to follow Mickey on Twitter at @mickeykeating!
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3760
originally posted: 03/10/15 08:43:25
last updated: 03/11/15 12:22:22