South By Southwest 2014 Interview – HOME director Nicholas McCarthy
By Jason Whyte
Posted 03/04/14 07:23:26
”You get scared of movies about the devil? This one's weird and fucked up and you should see it.” Director Nicholas McCarthy on his film HOME which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival.
Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?
I've never been to SXSW before and I'm excited. HOME shows three times and I'll be at the first two screenings (Sunday March 9th and Tuesday March 11th).
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?
My whole life I've made movies, starting with Super 8mm shorts when I was 10 years old. I spent many years making shorts, and eventually began playing them at festivals. A short film called THE PACT was a kind of tipping point in my own work. It premiered at Sundance and I was lucky enough to get an offer to make a feature out of it, which I wrote in a month and almost instantly was shooting. It was an incredible experience and HOME is my second feature.
How did this whole project come together from your perspective?
After THE PACT premiered I was faced with a choice of whether I wanted to direct someone else's script, or try again to write my own film. So many writer/directors had inspired me growing up, especially David Cronenberg, so I decided to make another film as both a writer and a director. I went away to a cabin in the woods and began writing the story that became HOME. Fairly soon after that I found the financing and we were making it.
What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?
The idea that guided me and my core crew on HOME was to make a horror film that took chances, something that was ambitious. I was hyper aware going into shooting that the whole project felt like uncharted territory for me. The plot of HOME is unusual and I don't want to give away too much. But I'll say simply getting the scenes on a day to day basis was the biggest challenge because it wasn't ever easily pegged just what this beast was we were creating. Which, of course, was the reason that made it worth doing.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
We had to be very careful with Naya Rivera on our movie because, as one of the stars of GLEE, she has to keep her voice in good shape. So we scheduled the one scene in the movie where she screams as her last to be filmed. It was the end of the day, minutes to go before wrap, the camera was trained on her and... “AIIIIIEEEEE!!!” She just shrieked like a scream queen.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?
FIlmmaking is a collaboration. On a crew, you never know better than anyone else about how to do their job. It's all based in mutual respect. Every day you work with people who are introducing you to some amazing thing they do, be it an actor, a makeup person, a set decorator and so forth. You learn so much. What keeps me going is that you always end up with something that you never expected. That's the magic of actually getting out and working alongside people. Coffee is a big vice for me. But I am also a fan of post-wrap cheeseburgers.
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.
HOME was shot on the Alexa camera. I liked the look we got with the Alexa on THE PACT so me and my cinematographer Bridger Neilson decided we wanted to explore it further. The difference here was we shot it in scope widescreen (2.39:1) and we used a very particular set of lenses made by Leica. They were brand new and we didn't know of any movies that had used them. The widescreen format has a correlation to the kind of miniature epic of the story, and we divided the frame into threes as much as we could to reflect the theme of triplicates in the movie. Bridger and I work very closely. This was our fourth project together and we have a certain understanding of what we both like. In general on set I don't have to speak much to him because he always knows what I want.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW?
HOME is a unique kind of genre film I think, almost like a Rubik's cube of a horror movie. It's gratifying to know it's finally escaping into the world.
After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?
I'm not sure where it will show. I'd like it to screen in as many places as it can because I love the sound of people screaming in terror.
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?
The Egyptian Theater in LA, The Castro in San Francisco, the Music Box in Chicago, the Ziegfeld in New York and the Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston are all my dream venues.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film?
Keep it down! I am trying to talk and text on my phone!
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?
Keep making things. Spend as much time creating things, with people, as possible. Screen this stuff to audiences you can actually sit with and listen to, even just in your living room. Use the internet not as a way to observe and judge, but as a tool to find others who want to build something with you. Go out into the sun and actually make that thing. Make the goal to do something that exceeds your grasp, because that's how you learn. Don't be afraid to fail, you'll have succeeded just by trying.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?
When I was 16 I went to the premiere of Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS at one of the very first Boston Film Festivals. I met Cronenberg in the lobby and pressed my VIDEODROME poster into his hand. I was such a nerd. He signed it and then I went in and saw that movie, which was so bold.
This is one of the many films screening at the 2014 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 8-16. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jasonrcwhyte