I caught a screening of Jake Kennedy's short film 'We All Fall Down' before 'Horror Business' at the recent Vision Fest in NYC and to say the least... I was blown away! Visually exciting and with top-notch sound, 'We All Fall Down' is an impressive contribution to the horror genre. Impressive enough that it will appear on the upcoming 'Fangoria Blood Drive: Volume 2 DVD & Jake's getting the chance to make full length version of 'We All Fall Down'. He filled us in on how his filmmaking career began, and gave us the run down on all his upcoming projects. Horror fans - be prepared!!! - by Robg. 9/05
What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first movie you remember really having an impact on you or scaring you?
At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue filmmaking? Can you tell us a bit about the origins to your filmmaking?
After leaving university in England, I went into advertising for 8 years. Then I moved to Australia thinking that I could use the clean break as a new start. I thought I wanted to go into the "movies", so I talked my way onto the set of Mission Impossible II for 2 months, working as an art department assistant. Ultimately, all I seemed to do was light candles, lug boxes from A to B and do the bidding of everyone above me. It was great for a while, as I got to stand behind Tom Cruise and John Woo as they reviewed and discussed scenes together. But the drudgery of everything else got to me. I didn't have a real skill (eg set decorator, designer, builder, sound recorder) that I could apply, so ultimately, it got boring. I left and got a "real job" back in advertising. Then it dawned on me after another couple of years... "what am I doing? Am I going to do be doing this for the rest of my life?" I felt lost for a while. Then I heard about a film festival called 'Tropfest' in Sydney, (Australia) that was all about encouraging "new" film makers to "have a go" and make a film. I thought "I could do that. I can make a film". So I bought some books, wrote a 6 minute script (comedy), cast actors, borrowed equipment, had a friend edit it and made the film.
You've worked a bit on various Hollywood productions in different capacities, but also worked on films in Australia. What are the major differences between making films there as opposed to here that you've noticed?
Australia has a small, tight knit film making community. There are a lot of great facilities there and plenty of American productions have been lured over with the weak Aussie dollar and great tax breaks. So lots of Australians are working in film. But it seems that if you want to be a Writer, Director or Producer, then things are a lot tougher.This is just my opinion as an outsider looking into the industry, but because the government there funds most of the country's feature films, a lot of people sit around waiting that year or two while their script and project are reviewed. Then only a few films are chosen, and even then, they are chosen for their contribution to Australian culture ie they will have a limited market elsewhere. To me it seemed that this didn't encourage a proliferation of local film talent.
You have about 13 short films already under your belt, all from various genres. You're last two have been horror shorts & it looks like you have a slew of other horror related ideas as well. What finally drew you to making horror films?
Where did the idea for your current short 'We All Fall Down' originate?
I sat down in a semi-calculated way to make a very scary, creepy and atmospheric film as a calling card as for my talents as a writer / director. So I put down on paper all the things I think make up a scary horror film.
'We All Fall Down' pools in various horror formula's we've seen before - the teens covering up a murder - and the Asian ghost story element, popular today in remakes. Was that always a conscience effort on your part with the writing? For example, did you see the little girl element as an homage to Japanese horror or was Julia Ling just the best actress for the part?
It seems that on your recent shorts, you've been able to pull in some really big talent to help out. For example, on 'We All Fall Down', you've got Mark Mangini & Mark Binder for the sound design; one of the strongest elements of your short. How'd you hook up with all these great people for your film?
I found my DP (Brandon Trost) through the LA Film school, (where I attended). I saw some of his exceptional work and said "that's the guy I need", then went after him. After seeing a short (Chuck) by Alex Turner in which Peter Lopez creates both sound design and score and combines them so that the design IS the score, I knew that's what I wanted. I put the word out and interviewed scores of people. Then out of the blue I got a letter from Mark Binder offering his services. He's a top Hollywood sound designer who used to be a musician, but wants to get back into scoring films. My film offered him just that opportunity. Plus he loves horror, and when we met, he loved the project.
How much preparation went into the making of 'We All Fall Down'? Did you have a set budget or set number of shooting days? How difficult was it to find financing?
Was 'We All Fall Down' always meant to be a short horror film, or was it also a way for you to raise money to make a full length version?
The second producer I showed the short to, bought the rights to script and we are currently in a re-write situation, but we have loose distribution agreements lined up in Europe and a financier with $1m waiting to green light the project once he reads the new script. And all this is off the strength of the short.
You've been able to screen 'We All Fall Down' at anumber of festivals to very positive feedback. Overall, how's it been from your perspective to screenthe flick at various festivals?
The film is one of the lead features on the upcoming 'Fangoria Blood Drive Volume 2' DVD. How'd that all come back?
It came about from doing my due diligence on the festival scene. I researched a lot of festivals to send my film out to and this one came up. I know a lot of people who make great shorts but do nothing with them. Doing the festival thing really has to be part of the film's life and budget. It's important. How else is anyone going to see your film?
Again, a lot of your shorts vary in genres. What kind of films would you really like to tackle in the future? Would you like to continue with horror or try something radically different?
There's a slew of projects listed on your website as in development. Can you give us the scoop on what exactly you'll be working on within the next year? Are you going to be handling writing & directing duties on the full length feature version of 'We All Fall Down'?
If all goes well, after that shoot, I should go into pre-production on We All Fall Down. My script is being re-written by another writer who will bring a whole new dimension to my ideas, themes and story. I've read some of his stuff. It's great. His draft should be delivered in a few weeks time. Then I have a high concept horror project that I have been developing with another producer for the last year and a half. We have a script, story boards, a maquette, a trailer, a pitch book etc and we are about to take this to the industry for funding. So lots happening.
With the horror genre constantly in flux, what are your thoughts of the current state of horror movies? We're starting to see a slow shift back to rated R horror material. How would you like your films to sit amongst the other horror projects on the horizon?
But everyone is jumping on the "horror bandwagon", producing a bunch of crap and calling it a "horror" film. People then get tricked into seeing the brightly polished turd through clever marketing, a slick trailer and a good one-sheet / DVD cover. I'm worried this will turn people off from seeing these slick looking, hollow films, which will only have repercussions through the whole genre and ultimately the market. But make a good, solid, scary, and dare I say, original horror film, and it will find its market.
Have there been any recent films that as a fan have really impressed you or gotten you excited about horror again?
Indeed. This sounds a little clichéd now, but I've thoroughly enjoyed some of the films coming out of Asia. Some of them are slow and some flawed, but for tone and story, they really do work - Audition, The Eye, Ringu. Plus I've loved rediscovering some of the classics that still hold up - The Entity, The Thing, The Exorcist, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Shining, The Fly.
I gotta ask. Your emails are all signed - "Jake Kennedy. He's a big guy. And he makes films." Are you really that big of a fellow?
Yes. I'm 6 foot six inches tall and hung like a blue whale. In case you were wondering. (laughs)
Listen, Jake. I see you going very far. And not just because you're a big guy. (laughs)
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