Quantcast Jake Kennedy interview - WE ALL FALL DOWN, DAYS OF DARKNESS

Jake Kennedy!!!
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?

I remember growing up, my mum let me and my sister rent all the scary movies - The Exorcist, American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead, The Thing, Evil Dead II, Nightmare on Elm Street. These are the films that had the biggest impact on me as a child. I remember I was 11 and I watched The Exorcist with a friend. I was at boarding school at the time and when we went back after the weekend, he woke up screaming for 4 nights in a row. His screams woke everyone in the school up. That's what I want to do with my films.

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.

At the screening, my friends were impressed that it turned out well. I was hooked. It was that encouragement that made me quit my job the next week and go to film school for 6 months. Then I bought a camera, a Mac, Final Cut Pro and set about shooting and editing movies whenever I could. I've now made 13 short films, each one more successful and improved than the last.

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.

There seemed to be a lot of talk and not enough action. But in the US / LA /, things seem a lot different. Everyone in LA is connected to the industry in some shape or form. Everyone has a script and is / was trying to make a movie. And this lead to one thing - a lot of people making movies. The opportunities here just seem greater. I believe that if you have the patience, willing, dedication, determination, a little luck and of course the skill, then you will succeed in some capacity in this town. You just have to get out there and do it.

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?

I grew up loving the genre, then dropped out of it in my teens as some of my friends became hard core fans and started to live that kind of life style. When I started making films, comedies were my thing and I made 11 with increasing success on the festival circuit. But as I studied and read more, I looked at some of the successful film makers today (Raimi, Landis, Cameron) and saw that they started out in horror. And the more I studied the genre, the more I saw it as the path I needed to take as a new film maker.
No one is going to give a first time film maker $5m+ to make a comedy or action film. It's too much of a gamble for an investor. But someone may take a chance on you with $100,000 in the horror genre. If you execute the film well, then horror sells. There's a huge market for it. So I made that horror short, wrote that horror script and lined up the next few projects for when opportunity strikes. And opportunity did strike and now I am starting to harvest the humble rewards of what I have been sowing for the last 4 years. I haven't given up the day job of editing corporate videos and filming weddings just yet. But hopefully soon.

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.

I decided that the horror must be pure. There must be a real and threatening force thrown into a mix of reality and fantasy, with no stereotypes, clichés and very little actual gore. It had to be kept in an isolated setting with an element of the unknown thrown in, while instilling unrelenting suspense and fear into our lead character, and therefore our audience. Cue months of thinking later, 4 characters, an old abandoned nuclear bunker in the hills; a dead Asian school girl out for bloody revenge on the people who killed her and a lot of plastic sheeting with a menacing life of its own. It's a mix of common ideas and styles, but I've given them a new life in a new way that hopefully demonstrates my handling and understanding of the genre.

'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?

The creepy school girl idea came first, Julia Ling came after. Of course it's a homage to films like Ringu / Ring and The Shining. But these themes and ideas seem to scare people. So I wasn't trying to re-invent the wheel, just make it turn in a new way.

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?

Part design and part luck. With WAFD, I set out to make the best film possible with a reasonable but limited budget. I wanted the film to have a certain look, sound a certain way, and have the best acting possible. As producer too, I called the shots, so wouldn't settle for anything less. I basically set my standards high and set about trying to fill those roles. One thing I'm good at is making people believe in my vision. So in my search, I think people saw someone who was out to make a quality film and jumped on the train.

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?

I cashed in my life savings for this film and with all my own money at stake, I had one shot to get this film right. Preparation is key and the foundation of any successful shoot. And I did lots of it. I was wearing many hats but did bring some great people in to help me. I did have a budget, but as the film grew, so did the budget.  As I wasn't going to compromise the final product, out came the credit card. I had to get this right, at any cost. We shot in 6 days and kept to the schedule.

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?

I looked at various models and formulas successful new film makers followed to achieve their success in the industry. The one that spoke the loudest to me was the "make a short film and have the feature script ready to go" model. I look to the 'Saw' boys (James Wan and Leigh Whannell) and really am just trying to emulate their formula. However, the short was first and foremost a short to showcase my skills as a writer/director. Then once it was in the can, I set about writing the feature script so that when the short was completed, I could hand people the short and the feature script. And that's how it worked.

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?

I do like the film screening at festivals. Just getting accepted is a thrill. Plus, it really helps give the film some credibility. Putting those laurels on the box and then handing the DVD to a potential investor / producer makes them sit up and take notice. The fact that someone else has accepted the film, has given it their seal of approval, seems to mean a lot in this town. Then when you win awards at the festivals too, that just adds further credibility to the film too. You could argue that festivals don't really mean much as there are so many out there nowadays. But it really is a good conversation opener. People listen. Then it's up to you to do the rest.

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?

Plus, of course, I read the pages of Fangoria religiously these days so when I saw the Blood Drive II call for entries, it was a no-brainer to enter the film. To me, Fangoria is synonymous with the horror genre. And to have that close a connection to that strong a brand can only be a good thing for the film and me. And sure enough, the Blood Drive DVD hasn't even launched yet, but the word 'Fangoria' and 'Winner' on my DVD cover has already opened up doors to a feature I'm shooting as Writer / Director in 4 weeks. Plus of course my film gets a global DVD release so people will actually get to see it!

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?

For now my head is focused on creating projects that scare, affect and ultimately entertain people. I have 3 very excellent horror projects coming up as writer/director. After that, I'm going to look at different projects either still in the horror genre, but also in the comedy and smart action genres. Coming from a background in advertising and having shot some TV commercials in Australia, I would love to stay busy between film projects directing quality commercials. I just have to find an agent now that can help me make that happen.

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'?

In 4 weeks time, I'm shooting a horror feature called 'Rise of The Flesh Eaters'. It's a zombie film, if you haven't already worked that one out. But it has some very different twists and turns and takes on the genre. The film will be ready early next year. My producers and I have high standards and care about the quality of our films. Everything about the film will be quality - cinematography, sound design, acting (the first two actors we have hired are both Emmy award winners).

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?

I want to make hard core R or even NC 17 films. None of this namby pamby PG 13, widest possible appeal - lowest common denominator stuff. Horror has to scare. And to make a horror omelet, you have to break a few shells, skulls, teeth etc. But the producers and investors need to make their money back too, so NC 17 can be a little restrictive for some projects. But you don't need a ton of money to make a horror film. Keep it tight, keep it scary and even a NC 17 should make its money back. Horror is doing well right now.

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.

To me, this is what a horror film should be - punch-you-in-the-guts, scrub-yourself-down-in-the-shower scary. I think a lot of the horror film makers out there have to jump off the gold plated horror bandwagon, and look closer at their product, their story and if it is a true horror film. Will it instill fear and dread in the audience? There are a few people out there doing just that and long may they continue.

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)

Special thanks to Jake Kennedy for his time.
Visit: www.WeAllFallDownTheMovie.com

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