The Vivisections International Horror Shorts Program returns to PhilaMOCA with 8 new films from around the world, all making their Philadelphia debut! To give everyone a sense of what to expect, we’ve conducted a series of 5 question interviews with a few of the filmmakers. Today’s featured directors are Can Evrenol (Baskin) and Julian Yuri Rodriguez (C#ckfight).
Vivisections screens at the PhilaMOCA on Sunday 9/22 at 7:30pm (doors open at 7). Admission is $8. For more info visit: philamoca.org
CAN EVRENOL (Baskin)
What was the inspiration behind your latest film, Baskin?
CE: This short film is actually a single big scene for me, an introductory scene to a bigger story. The whole thing popped in my head as I was head-banging to some pretty hardcore industrial metal in my friend’s car who was giving me a lift after BJJ training. My main inspiration was my composer Volkan Akaalp, who never gets tired of telling me real life ghost and UFO stories. Stylistically though, I’m obviously very much affected and thrilled by this past decade’s French horror films such as Frontiers, Them, Martyrs, Sheitan, Inside, and La Horde.
But I had one obstacle. I had no funds or trusted makeup artist friends for gore scenes. So I set out to make a gritty horror scene with only what I can find in the butcher’s shop and the hardware dealer… the result was Baskin.
Baskin was shot during the height of the recent waves of police brutality and the Gezi resistance in Istanbul. How did that inform the production and what additional challenges did it present?
CE: What we experienced here during those days was intense. I can’t do justice by a few sentences here, and I’m actually making a documentary on our journey during those days. It still is pretty crazy here. War next door, and police brutality doesn’t stop. But it’s also beautiful how the people stood up here for their rights. The initial police brutality was not televised and a new generation of kids tweeted it to the world! They warned and informed each other solely on social media. It was very touching to experience how a tradition of government brutality ran into a wall and it hit the headlines worldwide. Overall it was a very scary, touching, and exciting time to be a Turk in Istanbul during June 2013. And we shot a horror film during June 2013! I couldn’t be more proud and it couldn’t have been more meaningful. The fact that my script had cops in it makes the whole thing double, triple crazy.
We had to postpone the initial shoot dates which were to start the 7th of June. It was impossible to work. The whole city was like a riot zone. Public transportation was stopped around Taksim. Everybody had gas masks and talcid water on their backpacks. When the police retrieved on June 1, Taksim was like Escape From L.A. for a whole 3 weeks! A truly legendary period. We had a meeting with the production crew after the shock of the first couple of days. We were either going to cancel the shoot or we would go ahead with the production and take the risk of not being able to complete this shoot if things got worse again. There were deaths, arrests, beatings… Some of the most popular districts were like the movie, La Haine. Yet we were trying to shoot this horror movie under such surreal circumstances. But deep inside I always believed that this was about freedom of speech, and it doesn’t get more heavy metal than making a horror film during this time!
Soon after, we decided to stop participating in the protests for 10 days and shoot this film, no matter what happened in Gezi. It was difficult. I had to make this call that even if we get news that one more kid is dead and all our friends are walking to Taksim again, we had to stick to our production, or all the time and money we invested up to that point would be wasted. That was a decision which was not easy on my conscience, but ultimately knew that was the right thing to do.
The whole crew was constantly on Twitter, checking the news. We were angry, we were worried. I remember my 1st AD was in tears twice during pre-production, looking at her computer screen.
We also had a few pro-government friends in the crew. They didn’t like the protests. But we all kept it professional and never debated about it openly during the production. Finally the risk paid off. During the 3 days we shot, there were no big clashes with the police. However, 2 days before the shoot for instance, we had to cancel the last art department meeting due to an unofficial curfew around Taksim. 5 to 2 days before our shoot was one of the scariest times of the whole protests because there were pro-government thugs with sticks and knives terrorizing the streets in those days.
Another crazy aspect of the whole thing is that in the story we have 4 cops with uniforms, 2 police cars and some nasty stuff happening to them, all at night. I initially wanted to shoot the exteriors on some real locations, some real dodgy neighborhoods. During the Gezi events everything was so out of control and crazy that, nobody would dare to shoot anything like that in the locations we wanted to go for. Luckily, we found this 100 year old deserted shoe factory which had some buildings and exteriors we ended up using. It was a closed environment. Safe to work. So we went for it. At the end of the day, it wasn’t exactly the urban feeling I planned for, but this new exterior had a gothic element which also worked. And under the circumstances this location was a blessing.
To sum up, I never set out to make a political film. But for me, horror is always anti-status-quo. So this extra layer of subtext that the Gezi events provided for my film made me even more motivated and determined.
Your films are heavily influenced by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. What is it about his writing you find so fascinating and why do you think so few of his stories have been brought to the screen?
CE: One day one of my friends said that a short story I had written when I was 12 was very Lovecraftian. That made me finally seek Lovecraft. Before that, the name Lovecraft was only this one huge monster and a Metallica track title for me. When I read Lovecraft, I discovered a passion unlike any other to scream out the horror of the cosmos, which really struck me. They weren’t magically scary like Stephen King, or truly dark like 1984 or Lord of The Flies. I found the stories at times very shallow even. But just like a Carpenter or a Fulci movie, some little details in those stories made me love them more than any other story I have read. It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what it is, but I love Lovecraft’s rebellion to creation in general. I like how he describes horror as indescribable. I like his apocalyptic endings. And I like the theme of man’s insignificance in the cosmos in particular. Even more particularly, I love him for using the adjective ‘non-Euclidian’. For me, this is like saying even science, which we consider to be the ultimate truth in life, can not comprehend the nature of this particular evil! That is divine.
One detail I remember very distinctly is the way he describes the encountering of Cthulhu. I’ve always loved Godzilla since I was a toddler, but had never found true satisfaction in any giant monster movies/stories, ever. When I was sailing with my father’s small yacht, I used to stare at islands in the distance and fantasize that they were huge monsters sleeping with their heads and limbs under water and the island itself was the ridge of the monster. I fantasized them that big! They are never that big in the stories. The moment I read that some sailors die of fright when they see Cthulhu’, I was like ‘yeah this is what happens when you encounter a mountain size giant!’ Finally I found the one story I’ve always wanted! The horror of encountering such a thing is enough on its own. This is the end of the story. No catch and run action sequences necessary. This is it! You see a mountain-sized giant, and you’re on a boat – which is crucial that they are on a boat which makes the whole thing much scarier – and you die of fright; poetic and truthful.
If you had to choose one Lovecraft story to adapt into a feature film, which one would it be and why?
CE: The Picture in the House! It’s very heavy metal! It’s straight up my alley. No explanations given. Yet it feels like you as the reader have encountered the ultimate evil. The apocalypse. And I think it’s very much like my short film The Chest. Bad news.. you don’t know why.. you don’t know why it’s happening to you. But you feel like you are at the center of the world. You are the star of this show. And it’s apocalypse time! The thunder bolt at the ending… it’s really difficult to say why. I’ll go to bed and think about it now.
It’s been said that it’s getting harder and harder to shock modern audiences, yet you seem to be able to do it almost effortlessly. What do you think is the key to getting under an audience’s skin in such a short amount of time?
CE: I take that as a huge compliment! It would be pretentious if I gave you a prescription to get under audiences’ skin here. And maybe it’s such a non-Euclidian recipe, that it is not possible to put it into words.
JULIAN YURI RODRIGUEZ (C#CKFIGHT)
Where did the idea for C#CKFIGHT come from and what were some of the
themes you hoped to convey?
JYR: I wanted people to feel like they were watching a Cuban MORTAL KOMBAT.
C#CKFIGHT features dozens of colorful extras. What was the casting process
like and what were the challenges in directing a crowd of that size in such tight quarters?
The casting was fairly easy, we used most of our friends as extras and we’d ask them to bring their fathers or grandfathers. Living in Miami, which is fairly made up of Hispanics, it was very easy to cast the type of crowd
needed for the film. As far as directing the crowd, that is a different story, it was a fucking nightmare and I had to scream at a whole lot of people I really like and consider my friends.
The film is extremely accomplished for a debut short. What is your background?
JYR: I dropped out of high school to do drugs and be a painter, but then I found
that I really hated painting. Eventually I discovered this wonderful software
called, Windows Movie Maker on my mothers PC and realized I could
shoot and edit my own videos.
Borscht Corp have been responsible for many incredible shorts that have graced both the underground and mainstream festival circuits. How did you get hooked up with them?
JYR: I had been shooting some really weird music videos in Miami and they reached out to me, from there I helped out on some of their films because I wanted to learn more about working on a set. Last year they offered me the chance to make my debut short film with them, which is C#CKFIGHT.
What can you tell us about any projects you have coming up?
JYR: I want to make a film about fishing and pro wrestling.