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You Are Your Body / You Are Not Your Body
2014, 94m, drama, experimental, thriller
When four estranged siblings return to their Texas hometown for their mother's funeral, the youngest sister is abducted by a cult. In the attempt to rescue their sister, the family discovers the cult's terrifying plans for all of humanity.
Produced by: Nick Toti
Cast: Amara Gyulai, Deborah Jensen, Meredith Jane McCarty, Frank Mosley, Teresa May Nichta, and Gideon Seaman
10 questions with You Are Your Body / You Are Not Your Body director, Matt Latham at the half-way mark.
Thursday, May 5th, 2016
1Hi Matt! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Spring Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? I had just finished two short films and wanted to use the momentum to make another film right away. The original idea for this was to make two short films, one called YOU ARE YOUR BODY and the other called YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. I gathered the actors that I wanted to work with, along with my producer, Nick Toti, and we all spent a few months gathering ideas. Eventually, there were so many ideas that I decided to make it a feature. Many of the ideas came from the actors, in addition to Nick and myself.
2You wrote, directed, shot, and edited this film. Do you like wearing all those hats? Some argue if you do everything you are able to get closer to uncompromised vision, others argue you don't benefit from an outside perspective; what are your thoughts on this? I like wearing all those hats on my movies, yes. I make up for it by being extremely collaborative in the writing process, and especially with the actors. I have the confidence to make the first part of the process so loose and free because of how much control I have over the technical elements. There's probably something to gain by using more collaborators, but my whole motivation to make a movie is to do all these jobs myself to create something that feels, to me, unified.
3The cast in your film does an incredible job. How did you find your talented cast and what was it like working together? Thanks. One of the actresses (Meredith Jane McCarty) was someone that I've worked with a few times. When I met another actress that looked like her (Teresa May Nichta), I was inspired to make them sisters. Similarly, one of the actors (Frank Mosley) was an old friend that I had always wanted to work with, and I met one of his childhood friends (Gideon Seaman) and decided that they should play brothers. Similarly again, one of the actresses in the L.A. portion of the movie (Amara Gyulai), I had worked with a few times before and I wanted to bring her onboard. This was all before we had a script. But basically, they were all friends that I wanted to collaborate with.
Working together was a great process because we all spent months throwing together all these random ideas--anything that came to mind. Many of the ideas in the movie came from the actors, and in the end, I wanted them to have more authority over their characters than I did.
4I loved the scene where Sasha meets the "teacher" while on a hike. It's the first scene that steers the film into a direction I wasn't anticipating. It's strange but it also feels believable under the circumstances and then - black. What scene are you most proud of? Thanks. I like that scene. It was the last scene we wrote and shot for the movie, so it took the most effort to arrive at what it needed to be. So I guess that's the one I'm most proud of.
[Additional answer from producer/co-writer Nick Toti: Also, we totally ripped that scene off from a SNES game that Matt and I bonded over both having played over and over again as kids. I'll paypal $3 to anyone who can name the game we stole it from.]
5This is your first feature film. How did you know you were ready to make a feature and what prepared you? Since the initial idea was to make two complementary short films, I actually didn't know that I was ready to make a feature. It just sort of happened that way. As far as what prepared me, it was a combination of having made a lot of things on my own before, and then also bringing Nick onboard, who was able to help amplify and compliment my abilities. I couldn't have done it alone, that's for sure.
6Can you share a war story from the shoot? We were set up to shoot at the house that is the main location in the movie. The owner of the house was happy enough to help and let us shoot there, as one of her relatives was involved in the movie. But right before we started shooting, we lost the person who was our connection to the house, and so the owner of the house lost her main motivation to help us. We still did shoot in the house, but the circumstances made it very uncomfortable and I was terrified that the owner would lose interest in allowing us to shoot there, especially after we had already shot scenes there. I straight up had a panic attack about it. But it all worked out in the end.
7I also loved the scene where the two brothers end up arguing by the campfire. Jacob recounts an event with his 8th grade crush and Gideon crushes him for his small town dreams. Did you grow up in a small town? Are you a spiritual person? How much of your writing comes from experience vs. imagination? I am interested in the spiritual and religious realm, but I am not really either of those things. I was deeply interested in Buddhism while writing this movie, though, but primarily the existential quality of it. So I was pulling from where my mind was at, definitely, but I wouldn't say that I was pulling anything from experience. I didn't really grow up in a small town, and nothing in the movie really reflects my life. My writing primarily comes from imagination, but, since I collaborate so intensely with my actors, it's not just my imagination. It's also possible that some of this stuff comes from the actors' experiences, and I was just pulling from that.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I don't recall a specific film. Disney films (especially ALADDIN) made me want to be an animator, and that led pretty smoothly into becoming interested in filmmaking in general. A movie like WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, which blended animation and live action in such an exciting way, would make me obsess over how they did that.
9Cheap cameras and uncertain distribution options have flipped independent film upside down. What are your thoughts on the current state of indie film? Damn, big question. I have had many millions of thoughts about this, but now I would have to say that I don't care too much about this. At least, I don't want to care. We are at a point where there's nothing stopping people from making whatever they want to make and getting it out there.
My primary feeling is that I'm disappointed in the state of independent film, because I think 99% of them are striving to prove their competency. Nothing is stopping indie filmmakers from making the boldest, wildest, most interesting thing they can imagine, but they seem to be afraid of that, and locked into a fairly typical way of executing their story. Especially with digital cameras, everything tends to look the same. There is a primary indie film aesthetic that is generally competent but deeply boring.
The current hero of the whole independent thing is Louis C.K. with HORACE AND PETE. Yes, he has more money and is more well known and was able to get the best actors, but none of that matters as much as the brilliance of his concepts, with regard to execution and distribution, and most importantly, the deepness and boldness of the ideas in the show. This is-- [cut off by character limit]
10What's next? [continued from question 9] --the height of independent work in the modern age. Why? Because everybody else (including independent filmmakers) are following what they think are the rules, but Louis C.K. is one of the very few who is truly making his own rules, which is precisely what independence is all about.
[Answer to Question 10]
Nick and I have a feature-length experimental documentary called THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF SEATTLE about a vulgar Christian punk band. That's finished and we're figuring out how to get that out in the world. We're also in the process of conceiving our next narrative feature, which will be largely shot in Norway. Hopefully a couple of quick short films in the meantime!
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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