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How the Sky Will Melt
2015, 88m, drama, experimental, horror
Gwen, a young musician with a growing paranoia disorder, finds herself returning to her hometown of Boise after a traumatic event she was involved with back in Los Angeles. Upon her return, she and her old chums conjure up a perceived answer to their boredom: a chest that houses the ingredients to make any number of things from a birthday cake, to a monster, to the apocalypse.
Produced by: Sara Lynch, Jacob Kinch, Matthew Wade
Cast: Sara Lynch, Annika Karlsen, Scott Alonzo, Rodney Genther, Bentley Wiesner
10 questions with How the Sky Will Melt director, Matthew Wade at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
1This film is insane! What was the initial spark that made you want to make this film? I’m not entirely sure. It was a long, slow process of filling up notebooks with variations on the different stories. The initial idea came about some time while living and going to art school in Vancouver, Canada. I wrote a really long, really epic, really impossible screenplay (320 pages or so) that taught me how to go about creating a type of structure I liked. That script was too ambitious to make but there were the seeds of Micah, the father character, and the Man from the Sky in that story.
The character of Gwen kind of came about after my wife, who plays Gwen in the film, and I moved to Los Angeles after school. I had this idea of a girl drifting apart from the hometown friends she once had and presenting her “girl coming-of-age” story as a horror film, viewed from her perception of the world turning into this ugly deformation. We kind of worked on her character together from there.
2I love the fact that you shot on super 8 film. Why did you make that decision? Short answer is that I love the look of Super 8mm, had made films with it before, and thought the look of the small gauge stock would be the best canvas on which to paint this story.
When we shot, in late 2012, digital cinema cameras had not come nearly as far as they are today. I think the first Blackmagic had just been announced and RED was out of our league and too much camera for this kind of shoot. More than that, I just didn’t like the way any of these cameras captured images for this specific idea. Too slick, too “digital looking,” too whatever. I think it needed to be shot on a technology reminiscent of it’s time period and inspiration. Hence the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack as well.
3The ADR (additional dialogue recording) gives the film a sort of otherworldly vibe. Was that a conscious decision or a happy accident? Very conscious, yes. The Super 8mm camera is so damn loud. Even baffled, the motor could be heard on the mic in almost every take. The only audio that we kept in the film, that was original from the shoot, was Gwen’s monologue outside of Pearl’s trailer, and then her final scene right before credits, when she is watching the Magic Winks. We felt they were worth keeping because we loved those performances so much.
We ADR’d the entire film other than that.
4Since you created the music for this film too, which came first, the visuals or the music? Visuals always come first for me, although they always carry a kind of audio with them, be it ambient noise or music of some sort. An early example is the first shot of Gwen driving down the highway, filmed through the windshield. That shot, with the zoom in and that music, though I hadn't scored it yet, was exactly as I thought of that shot while writing the script. Those little solidified moments in my mind help guide everything else.
The music was written after we shot everything, but before I ever saw a single frame of the film, which is a very strange way to compose a soundtrack. Well actually, two tracks I wrote for the film after its edit lock were the last two on the soundtrack: “Father and Daughter” and “Don’t Cry for Her.”
For most of the score, it was recorded during a time of waiting and imagining what the film would look like (we had no dailies and didn’t see a single frame for over a year after shooting began). The scoring beforehand was also helpful, stylistically, because much of the film is cut to the score’s pace, like a music video. This was something I knew I’d want to do pretty early on anyway for a couple key scenes.
5What was the most difficult scene to shoot and why? All of the pool stuff was really hard. We had only two days to shoot those several pages of dialogue and action. I had no crew except for Jacob Kinch, who was recording the scratch dialogue. He was also helping me pull tape, slate, and keep notes and stuff at the same time. We shot the pool scenes at my aunt and uncle’s house south of L.A., and my cousins filled in here and there on some of the minor crew roles. Again here the actors in those scenes, Sara Lynch, Bentley Wiesner, and Jordan Carlman were all great about filling in where I needed makeshift crew. Super helpful.
6The Man From the Sky character is nuts. How did you come up with his look and his voice? Thanks, I’m really happy with him!
Up until the day we went looking for costume pieces I had no clear idea of what he should look like. I kept describing him as a “Cenobite who didn’t wear fetish leather.” Sara and I were in a thrift store looking for ideas when we began joking about him being dressed kind of provincial, like some sort of demon laggard. The suspenders were a delightful detail that just worked for me as soon as we saw them on the actor (Rodney Genther).
At his shooting locations we had little in the way of supplies. I decided to simply dump the FX blood onto his white head and see if that didn’t do something interesting. As soon as I did we all kind of looked at each other and were like, “Shit, that looks pretty eerie.”
The voice was very tough to figure out and took a lot of work and reworking, but in the end, where we found the voice he has in the film, is actually Sara Lynch’s voice, re-recorded and pitched while doing our ADR sessions. Much of Sara’s voice and breathing were used in creating atmospheres and ambience for the film throughout, whereever we wanted to emphasize something.
7So you write, direct, shoot, edit, compose music, animate and draw. What's something you absolutely suck at? Haha. I’m sure there are people who would argue I suck at any or all of those.
I really suck at self-promotion and having a social media presence. Being your own PR person is a really useful skill to have these days.
Some art school had an assignment where the drawing class had to pick an artist they liked, to try and mimic their style exactly and learn how different people approach what they do. This kid tagged me on Twitter, saying he had chosen my style to try and do, and I saw that he had something like 1,000 or more followers. I have like 100. So this kid made my work more known by talking about an art class assignment than I can get from my own personal Twitter feed. I suck at that stuff.
8What was the first film that made you want to become a filmmaker? There are moments, rather than single movies, that had profound influence. E.T. is the first movie I remember seeing (on a wood panel TV), Hook in the theater as a kid, Tweleve Monkeys on video as a pre-teen, and 2001: A Space Odyssey as a teenager. Each one has its place in my love of movies and my interest in them as art, and not just entertainment.
In my early 20s, The Egyptian theater in downtown Boise was playing a bunch of classic films and had a 70mm print version of 2001 running for two midnight showings, which I went to. It was like seeing the movie again for the first time: giant, loud, and completely hypnotising.
Years later, while living in L.A., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art brought in a Kubrick exhibit. Walking through it, especially the 2001 section, which had the Moonwatcher costume, the exterior models of the ships, the 70mm camera, furniture from the space station, etc., was the closest thing in a long time I’ve had to a religious experience. We stayed in that LACMA exhibit for several hours. Sara is a huge The Shining fan, so both of us were just going nuts the whole time we were there.
9What was size of your cast/crew and how did you meet them? Really small. The most crew we ever had on set at any time were seven, plus the actors. Most of the time it was five, plus the actors (myself, my DP Yong Jin Kim, sound guy Jacob Kinch, Gaffer Chaz Gentry, and key grip / The Man from the Sky, Rodney Genther). Yong Jin and I met in Vancouver while going to school, and then reconnected once we both moved to LA. He graduated from AFI as a Cinematographer right before we started shooting Sky Melt. Chaz, I’d known and worked on various projects with for years and my sound guy, Jake, and I have been friends since high school, and even went to film school together.
The main supporting actors, Annika Karlsen and Scott Alonzo, had to fly in from Toronto and Vancouver, respectively. Sara, my lead actress and coproducer, had acted with the afore Annika and Scott in Vancouver, which is how we all originally worked together the first time.
10What's next? A new feature I’m gearing up to shoot toward the end of this year, a couple small projects in-between freelance work (to pay the bills), and some new music.
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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