A young woman and the man who cares for her race to find shelter in a roadside motel so they can feed her addiction, in this intriguing, wordless story about desire and dependency. Steven McCarthy's debut film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before playing festivals all over North America. It was chosen by TIFF as one of the top ten short films of 2015 and a feature length version is now in the works..
Produced by: Steven McCarthy, Eric Haapala, Corinne Wilkerson
Cast: Steven McCarthy, Alyx Melone, Sandra Forsell
5 questions with o negative director, Steven McCarthy at the half-way mark.
Friday, April 14th, 2017
1Hi Steven! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired O-Negative? Alyx and I went to see an old horror movie from the 80s at our local cinema. At the bar later I looked at her and said "Someone should cast you in a vampire movie." We started joking about what the story might be, tossed around a few of our favourite vampire films like Near Dark and Let the Right One In. A few weeks later I was driving up to Sault Ste Marie, my hometown, and noticed some of those great old motels along Hwy 17 east. The first images in the movie came into my head and I grab a recorder and spoke them aloud: A man exhausted driving down a dark highway, in the backseat an unconscious young woman. They pull into a motel... That's all I had for a whole year. I wrote the rest of the script a year later and shot it a month after that.
2You and Alyx Melone give wonderful performances in this film. You also say that you two created these characters together. I'd love to hear how you met Alyx and what was your process of coming up with these characters together? Haha! See the above answer. It was that fun conversation that began as a joke that lead to the film. Alyx and I had met a couple of years previous in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada. I had recently completed the directing programme and Alyx was in the acting programme. We both love to create together - she's a fantastic visual artist and sculptor as well as being a great actress. We are actually in prep right now for Alyx's directing debut - she's written and will star in a film called "Talking Heads" about a woman who goes to great lengths to be more attractive to her disinterested boyfriend. It's got an innocence that hides a wild dark side - think Amélie directed by Tim Burton. I'm producing this time which at our guerrilla film level includes making lots of soup and sandwiches.
3Your film was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. What was that experience like and has it opened any doors for you? It was incredible. That festival, the programmers, the staff - they all love film so much and they treat you like gold. When the website went up with the "o negative" trailer, before the festival even happened , I had phone calls from some people eager to meet with me. That's how I ended up signing with my managers at Echo Lake Management in LA.
4This film has barely any dialogue in it. Why did you decide to go that route? What is it about stories told without much dialogue that attracts you? I had seen "Under the Skin" the year before with Alyx and I loved it. I said to Alyx that if I ever made a movie it would have that uncanny dreamlike quality. Also as a songwriter and a theatre director I work with words quite a lot. For me what makes cinema unique, like Kubrick says, is this ability to be something close to a dream. You control the audiences point of view. You can tell them only what you want to tell them at any given point - the tension comes out of what we expect, what we fear, and how long until that is confirmed. I had a great screenwriter pal of mine who read an early draft of "o neg" where there was still a long dialogue scene, the bar scene, and he encouraged me to find a way to do the scene with a look. In the end that is one of the strongest cuts of the film.
5A feature version of this film is in the works, is that what you're working on next? If so, when can we expect the feature length version? I've stopped trying to predict that. I had so much interest and so many great people offering to help at first I was just like - yes! I'll write it now and direct it next week! But no. The path of writing the feature, and at the same time giving myself a crash course in filmmaking - reading scripts, reading books on writing, on cinema, on story, watching films by the greats and trying to understand why they work so well -- it's been a strange, circuitous journey. At first I thought I could just will it into being. I've realized that this film is finding its own life in its own time. I've had images + scenes in my head for a year that are only now starting to coalesce into something clear and necessary with a strong sense of need and story. It's not been easy. I love making things in groups of people, my rock band has 12 people in it, and the last play I directed had 26 actors - so by contrast writing is a strange, solitary affair and I've given up hope that I can do it many, many times. But something keeps driving me on. With any luck when we talk again it'll be about the premiere of the feature version. Whether that's in 2 years or ten years I've realized i really don't know.
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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