After I reviewed his film Fear Eats the Seoul, Nick Calder kindly provided me with this email interview in February 2012.
What was the initial idea behind the film and how closely do you think the finished version matches that?
“The film was originally a zombie comedy set in Korea, it was going to be a satire. But around the time that I was writing the project, I was teaching at a very difficult school. My problems were almost exclusively with my boss and the antiquated measures of teaching I was being forced to implement. After three months, I decided to quit, and I was suddenly homeless and jobless in Korea. These frustrations are what fuelled the film to become more an expression of my feelings of fear and failure. Here I was being an ESL teacher, when all I wanted was to make films. And to see how over time I had completely derailed made me want to shift the tone and story to better mirror these themes. So in other words, it did a 180.”
Why did you choose to go with long-clawed ‘demons’ rather than the traditional zombies which could have fulfilled the same role?
“I have always been afraid of the long-clawed monster that could reach out and grab you no matter how far away you were. That you were never out of reach from danger. Two direct influences are Nightmare on Elm Street and Demon Knight. I wanted to take the zombie a step further and not treat them as simply dead people. A demon is tearing through the human fabric, so the claws are the demon's hands tearing through the human host's body.”
What problems did a multinational cast and crew present?
“There was always a need to be extremely flexible and patient. A larger difficulty was simply a cast and crew consisting of everyone but professional filmmakers. Almost everyone was a teacher of some sort who was working on this film for the love of their craft. But it was a lot of compromising and understanding that because it was not a conventional film production, we had to always reschedule and it becomes evident when you see our production schedule.
“We shot for about 25 days, but over the course of six months from August 2010 to December 2010. We had translators on board for the Korean actresses and ultimately I pride myself on being a mime and I would show by doing and being visual. Hyun Do, who is the main Korean actress, was also just very intuitive and I hardly needed language to get the performance I needed from her. I have been very lucky.”
How did you come to use British composer Scott Benzie?
“Scott Benzie found me. I remember back in September of 2010, I had just released our first teaser for the film. And it ended up gaining some unexpected attention from the likes of Horror Movies Canada and Quiet Earth. I believe he saw the trailer through Quiet Earth and found my Facebook page. We didn't have a website yet. And he messaged me stating that he would love to see the film and discuss composing for it.
“In the beginning I was a little skeptical, I had listened to some of his work and thought that it was well produced but I was not sure if the tone would be right. But we continued to speak as the shooting continued. And finally when we had a rough cut I ended up sending it to him to view. He became a champion of the project and it was very hard not to want to work with him. And once he composed a few of the early pieces and I heard what he was bringing to the film, I was on board. I love the score and the film would be half of what it is now without it. Scott Benzie, my champion!”
How much of a backstory did you develop for whatever has actually happened in Korea before the film starts?
“I have the beginning of the infection. The film was initially supposed to open with the first days of the infection involving a Korean family. And in reality if there was a much larger budget we would have differentiated the demons a lot more. There are three stages of infection, but we had to blend the first and second into what you see in the film. But the last stage was going to be very frightening. One of these third stage demons is what attacks someone in the mountains and this starts the infection. So I hope to revisit this story once more later down the line and really create the vision I had for it.”
How has the film been received in different countries by audiences and critics?
“Well we have had two independent premieres, in Seoul and New York, now. And in Korea, the film was very well received by the expatriate community. If only because this film caters directly to their demographic and one viewer had even pointed out that with the flashbacks and locations, the film is almost a time capsule of anyone's time teaching abroad in Korea. There weren't a lot of Korean audience members, so I would still be very curious to see what they feel about the film.
“In New York, I was more afraid of hearing what everyone thought because there is no context for them to pre-relate to the characters and situations. But for the most part the reaction was very similar and positive and so I have been overjoyed with everyone's response. I think people are relating to the feelings of being lost and not having control of their lives, which I think is something happening in the world right now, economically and socially.”
What are your plans for the future?
“Right now, we are trying to get Fear into as many festivals as possible. We have a kickstarter fund going on right now to help pay for the submission and shipping costs. There is still 18 days left for the funding goal to be met. Everyone can check that out on Kickstarter.com by searching for the film, Fear Eats the Seoul.
“Beyond Fear, I am currently prepping a two-part demon inspired music video project for Acey Slade and the Dark Party. They are releasing a new album soon and these will be for the leading singles. And I am also starting the writing process for my second feature, which is very, very exciting. It will be a cross between Eternal Sunshine and Silent Hill. It's going to be a busy year.“
interview originally posted 20th March 2012