Indie Film Inspiration “A Spooky and Difficult Time” with Impossible Horror Director/Writer Justin Decloux

Indie Film Inspiration “A Spooky and Difficult Time” with Impossible Horror Director/Writer Justin Decloux

By Emily Milling

It’s been a few years of movie making madness with myself and Justin Decloux. We started out with an experimental film called Ghost Scare and ramped up pretty quickly to finishing Teddy Bomb together, making lots of short films and finally culminating in our most recent project, Impossible Horror. We spend a lot of time talking about our passion for filmmaking and why we’re doing it, and how it hasn’t completely destroyed our brains or even our relationship so far. I personally consider myself quite lucky for that!

For me, Justin = Indie Film Inspiration. Also, a lot of fun.

And so, to get into the depths of our processes both together and apart, we’ve got TWO interviews with each other about Impossible Horror. Today, you get to read this interview with Justin Decloux where I ask the questions, and tomorrow you’ll get to read my interview where he will ask the questions.

If you have your own questions about the film, get your tickets for the world premiere of Impossible Horror on Monday, October 16 at 9:30 p.m. at the Scotiabank Cinema to see the film and meet the cast & crew at the Q & A after the film!

E: You’re Just-In-Time!

J: Thanks! That jokes never gets old.

E: That’s why you love me. So tell me, Justin – why did you decide to make a film? Aren’t films, like, hard to make?

It all seems so easy when you start! You write a script, you plan out the shooting blocks (when it seems totally manageable to shoot all nights for three weeks!)  and you sit back and go “We’ll have this all wrapped up in a few months!”  I really should have paid more attention to the fact that I was telling the story of a creative people driven insane from the impossibility of finishing their art.

The film turned my hair white! (Editor’s Note: No, it didn’t. His hair has been white since he was 17)

But it did turn half my beard white! (Editor’s Note: Can’t argue with that)

E: What inspired to make a spooky movie with ghosts?

J: My last feature film TEDDY BOMB was an all out go-for broke action splatter comedy in the style of my favourite Hong Kong directors like Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung, but for IMPOSSIBLE HORROR I wanted to scale things back a little, and take inspiration from an unlikely place – Japanese horror films, especially the straight to video ones (A.K.A V-Cinema). The sub-genre has such specific rhythms and moods and it’s actually the antithesis to the style I usually gravitate toward – loud, big and in your face – so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try to tell a story in a calmer mode – to a point (which you’ll understand when you see the film) I obviously riffed a lot on the work of Hideo Nakata and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but the anything goes feel in the back half was directly powered by Takashi Miike and Sion Sono, two filmmakers that do everything simultaneously: Comedy, horror, drama, tragedy, and action often all appear within the same five minute span.

E: I heard you say you were also inspired by Lovecraft. Can we expect cool tentacle monsters!!!??

J: Well, I would temper your expectations of crazy monster action, but it’s true I was fascinated with Lovecraftian idea of a force so beyond human comprehension that it would drive a person to madness. I knew I couldn’t afford to build giant creatures, so I honed in on the horror of his creations. Plus, Lovecraftian insanity is all over J-Horror, so it was an easy fit. The toughest part was trying to balance the threat of an indescribable destructive presence and giving the characters goals and growth they can achieve. It helped once I figured out that the whole thing was going to hinge on struggling creatively.

E: Why a story about a filmmaker? Isn’t that a little narcissistic?

J: As a person who lives and breathes movies, I have a knee jerk reaction to wanting to tell stories about films and the art that surrounds them, which I realize is incredibly selfish, but it’s what I know! I didn’t want to make a ‘woe is me! How difficult it is to direct!’ story, but I did want to trace someone’s obsession with the art and how it shapes their life in an almost insidious way. The first few drafts were much obsessed with the concerns of making a movie, but with my co-writer Nate Wilson, we shaved some of that off to speak more universally about being creative. The filmmaking angle did allow to experiment with how I could tell the story as well.

E: Yea! About that! I saw there was some found footage style scenes in the film! What’s up with that?

J: I’ve always found that Found Footage was a stylistic form that had a lot of fun cinematic potential, so I really wanted to play in a sandbox that was fixed and technically simple, but it proved to be some of the most difficult things to shoot! You can write “They wander around in the dark of the woods,” very easily, but then you’re faced with the reality of finding woods in the middle of nowhere where the only light comes from a battery powered flashlight (that’s dying), your crew wonders who will be murdered first, and then it starts to rain.

The found footage element, which we shot on a T2I, also lead me to expand the film into a bit of a multi-media project with footage shot on phones, laptops and VHS. The only thing we didn’t use (which was in the script!) was Super 8 – cause $$$.

E: What was the hardest thing to do?

J: Props! Holy molee! What a pain in the butt! I would recommend writers rethink making a film that has 100+ props.

Truthfully, the shoot was extremely hard, mostly due to working nights and having a tiny crew, but we eventually got through it because we literally had no choice. Now, post-production was a whole other matter, as every technical problem we could possibly have (and some I didn’t even know existed) crushed my heart on a daily basis.

I have never felt more stressed in my life.

Thankfully, the two leads (Creedance and Haley) were extremely understanding and showed up whenever we needed them. The co-writer and producer Nate Wilson offered essential advice in shaping the film in post (while watching cut after cut), the cinematographer Aidan Tanner was always there to shoot more inserts, April Etmanski did all of the color on the film and Colin Cunningham saved my bacon with his invisible visual effects magic on two dozen shots that I assumed I was going to have to cut.

But most important of all, my partner Emily Milling carried the entire project on her back from start to finish. There is no way in hell I could have done it without her. She produced the film, she did the scheduling, she did catering, she did the makeup and special effects, she did all all the sound design, she recorded all the ADR, she mixed everything, she wrote all of the music and she checked everyone else’s work – ALL WHILE WORKING ANOTHER FULL TIME JOB.

E: You’re TOO sweet, Justin! You make my heart melt into a gooey mess of blood and tears of joy. Last question – what would be the one lesson you’d want to share with other filmmakers?

You can’t do this stuff alone. You really can’t.

It’s impossible.

Check out Impossible Horror at The Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 16 at 9:30 p.m. in Toronto! 

Exclusive Interview with April Etmanski – Actor, Colourist, Foley Artist

Exclusive Interview with April Etmanski – Actor, Colourist, Foley Artist

By Emily Milling

Meet April Etmanski, actor, colourist, foley artist and overall superstar for Impossible Horror which premieres at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 16, 2017 at 9:30 p.m. She also happens to be one of my closest friends and a seriously awesome creative collaborator. April and I met in high school and acted in Fiddler on the Roof together in grade 11. We also made films together, including our pinnacle piece, an adapted version of Macbeth. Since then we’ve worked on different projects both together and apart, and we had the chance to work on Impossible Horror together over the last two years. April made a huge difference and was a constant cheerleader for the film, encouraging Justin and myself to keep working and get it done. Now, we’re planning a short film that will go into production in 2018.

So, what does it take to be an all-around talented film superstar? I had an interview with April Etmanski about her processes and ideas to find out.

E: April! How’s it going?

A: Very well, thanks.

E: Thanks for taking part in this interview!

A: No problem!

E: Some (me) might say that you’re one of the most crucial elements that brought Impossible Horror to life. You were part of the concept, the crowdfunding campaign, the pre-production, production, post-production and here you are in the final stretch as we start promoting the film talking about your experience. What was it about this project that compelled you to be involved and stick it out?

A: I found everything to be very exciting! I had very little experience with film productions before this. Working in the post world, I never really got to be involved in pre-production or shooting on-set. Making a movie with my friends seemed like such a fun way to spend my off-hours. Also, getting the chance to be involved with the creative process was such a thrill. Whether lending a hand on set or being involved with post sound and colour, I enjoyed every minute of it.

E: And what does the film mean to you?

A: Impossible Horror is a project that I am immensely proud of. I always tried to be a positive influence during the process, offering help and bringing optimism wherever I could. I think the end product turned out so well and I know that is because everyone involved came together with their best work.

[bctt tweet=”Everyone involved came together with their best work. #ImpossibleHorror @apriletmanski” username=”canmakep”]

E: You were both an actor and a production assistant on set. What was your experience like with both? How did you balance them?

A: On the days where I was acting, I tried my best to also be a production assistant as well. Sometimes it’s helping set up a scene, sometimes it’s just offering an opinion. Being a PA often means being ready to help with anything at any moment, and also when to stay out of the way. 🙂

E: And how was it to work with a small team on this film?

A: I liked working with a small crew a lot because it allowed me to observe the process. Being behind the camera while the cinematographer (Aidan) did his thing was pretty cool. We were also all friends, so the crew got along very well.

E: Moving into post-production you were involved in both the visual and audio elements of the film. Can you talk a bit about the different things you did for the film in post?

A: I did the colour correction and performed as a foley artist.

E: How did you come up with the style for the colour of the film?

A: The director (Justin Decloux) shot the film exactly the way he wanted it to look. Most of the film has these amazing moody shadows over everything, with rich greens and yellows popping up all over. So the look was already set. My job became just enhancing the look so the shadows were really dark but the colours still popped. It was also really fun because this was the first horror movie I have ever coloured. So I got to experiment with making the gory scenes look especially gross by adding green and blue tones.

E: And what was the process like working with Justin on the finishing touches?

A: Great! Once the look was set he pretty much let me do the whole movie. Very few revisions.

[bctt tweet=”We needed to duplicate walking on a metal surface, so we ended up using muffin trays. #ImpossibleHorror” username=”canmakep”]

E: Can you talk about the process for the foley work you did? How did you come up with some of the sounds?

A: For most of the sounds I foleyed we just tried to duplicate what was happening onscreen. So for the forest scenes we brought a bunch of dried leaves into the house. If I had to foley a character stumbling and falling, I would just do that in front of the mic. However, sometimes we had to get creative. We needed to duplicate walking on a metal surface, so we ended up using muffin trays. We also had one patio stone and that really came in handy! A small handful of gravel on that stone gave just the right crunchy sound for a lot of the footsteps.

E: And your ability to walk in time with the action in the scene is like some hidden talent I’ve never seen before, have you done footsteps before? How do you step in time with the action so well?

A: I did foley for a few projects in college. There’s no secret to it. You just have to look at the action a few times and then do your best to match it. I guess I just love performing. I love dancing and things that involve movement. For Impossible Horror, I just went for it! It was so much fun.

E: Thematically this film deals with a lot of creative blocks. What’s your strategy for overcoming creative blocks? Did you face any while you worked on the film?

A: For me, I often have a hard time getting started. I procrastinate. But once I’m going, I can work for hours and get into the zone. I think it’s important to have a support system of people who encourage you to be creative. I think that helped with Impossible Horror. Our team was game every night.

E: Thanks, April! You’re a superstar!

A: Thanks! So are you!

Check out Impossible Horror at The Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 16 at 9:30 p.m. in Toronto!