Friday, June 6, 2014

INTERVIEW: Director Kirsten Walsh and actress Karen Overstreet

Last month, I had the pleasure of screening a short film low-budget achievement called "Hopscotch". If you missed my review, don't fret. Here it is: "Hopscotch" review

After the impression the short film left on me, I decided that I'd ask the director, Kirsten Walsh, and actress Karen Overstreet some questions about the film making process and "Hopscotch", their new film. Kirsten is an active military member, and has already done 10 films in her movie making career. Karen is an actress who compels your focus when she's in a scene. After seeing her performance, I knew it was a good idea to include her in this interview. So I got to play around in their heads a bit, which is cool because they're both incredibly nice people. And, they gave some pretty good answers, which is always a plus. 

Director Kirsten Walsh taking a well needed break

[Kirsten] What inspired you to become a filmmaker, and are there any movies that you feel pushed you in the direction of being a filmmaker?

Kirsten Walsh: Well, I actually fell into filmmaking accidentally by answering a Craigs List Ad to be a script supervisor. Before that, I had always loved movies. Of course I grew up watching the golden era of 80's films (E.T., Star Wars, Indiana Jones), but when I got older, I saw Scream and everything changed. Horror became a part of my life, and I have never looked back.

I've always played on the artistic side, and filmmaking came very naturally to me. I'm not a talented camera person by any means, but the organizational aspect motivated me for years as a production manager. I hit a dry spell shortly after I was stationed in Maryland, and kept complaining to my writer about not having a project to work on- a goal to move forward to- so he got sick of it and wrote me a script, but the stipulation was that I would have to direct it myself. It was a huge undertaking, but I think it turned out pretty well.

[Kirsten] What is the motive/messaging behind "Hopscotch"?

Kirsten Walsh:
The story had a lot of inspirations behind it. The main motive from the script standpoint is revenge. It is tricky to pick up on, but each of the characters reveals an aspect of revenge in their characters, with the most obvious being Jolene summoning Bridget there after knowing her in high school. But each of the characters (with the exception of the bulldog) have a reason for doing what they do, both as characters and in the actions of the film.

[Kirsten] Since almost the entire film takes place in the same setting, was it hard to come up with good dialogue to keep the conversation going?

Kirsten Walsh: All of the dialogue came from Christian. He saw this project as a challenge, in that it was a cast of all females, and there he was, a male writer. But he excelled with it. The dialogue just flowed during the first readthrough, and I knew we had something awesome.

When we were originally doing the casting, I approached several actresses to read for the roles. While many were excited for the audition, I did receive a few
You're going to burn in HELL! comments and actresses telling me this project was a very controversial one. I didn't understand it at the time, but when Karen Overstreet (Rebecca) said the lines on set, I got it. Now, I am in awe of those lines.

[Kirsten] I know it's brief, but can you tell me how much blood was used in the making of "Hopscotch"?

Kirsten Walsh: Ha! So, we didn't have any initially, but I called my special effects designer (whom I work with on every project I've done recently) and begged him for help. He just happened to have a five gallon bucket full of blood sitting around. So, I would say at least five gallons worth!

[Kirsten & Karen] Can you tell me any off camera stories that will make "Hopscotch" memorable for you, personally?

Kirsten Walsh: Definitely! The whole shoot was such a cool experience. When we arrived onset In St. Mary's was when everything clicked into place for me. We actually stayed in the location where we shot the living room sequence, and everyone had a room that was themed. It was incredible. I remember the production designer and makeup artist giggling like school girls running around the house looking at all of the rooms!

Karen Overstreet:
Wearing Christin's slippers because my feet were freezing, Christian's vegan pancakes that were incredibly good, and Navi the Bulldog lapping up fake blood as fast as Kirsten could get it on the floor.

[Karen] Was that candy good? And, do you feel that there are things throughout the short movie that people may not pick up on? Any hidden elements?

Karen Overstreet:
The black current ones were actually really good, but whatever flavor the red ones were supposed to be... not so much.
When my character pokes Bridget with a brooch, I am actually stabbing Amanda with the pin. No faking. I felt so guilty each time I did it; I still feel guilty thinking about it!

[Kirsten & Karen] What's next for you?

Kirsten Walsh: I'm currently in pre-production for a short horror film-
Six and Seven. We are returning to the welcoming town of St. Mary's, and are extending our shoot a bit longer this time. We have more special effects, more gore, more people, more everything. It is going to be awesome!

Karen Overstreet:
I just finished a run on stage as Pamela in Ken Ludwig's "The Fox on the Fairway" which is a light-hearted farce (the exact opposite of "Hopscotch") and I am booked to shoot a TV pilot later this summer.

[Kirsten Does having been in the Military make you have more of a drive when you make movies? Are you well motivated and good with time management?

Kirsten Walsh: It is really hard, to be honest. I work, and then I come home and make movies, and talk to producers and send out emails. I think being located far away from my cast and crew makes me trust in them more, and lets them take the reins with the project, and I get to observe and make notes. For
Hopscotch, it was a huge learning experience, and all of my vacation days got used up for the film! But it was well worth it.

I think I've always been good with time management and organization, coming from a production management background. I plan back up plans for back up plans and have options for everything down to the last minute. But having the military experience has really helped define me as a director, a leader of a cast and crew, and also as a flexible person who is willing to really let the crew excel at their positions.

[Kirsten & Karen] Looking back at your work, are you satisfied with the outcome?

Kirsten Walsh: Oh hell yes! As soon as the film was done, and I got the first review (your review), that really cemented everything in. Showing it to one crew member or producer is one thing, but showing it to someone outside of the bubble, and they get what you were trying to convey- that is one of the coolest feelings in the world.

Of course, the whole experience was incredible, from setting up the casting to working with the talented actresses (and my bulldog Navi). Even if the film had come out looking, sounding, and being terrible, I still would've shown it, and I still would've been proud of it.

Karen Overstreet:
I hope I will be! I actually haven't seen it yet!

[Kirsten & Karen] What are you hoping people get out of watching "Hopscotch"?

Kirsten Walsh: I hope people are entertained by the film. Sure, there's a lot of subtext and complex story within the script, but at the end of the day, it is just a film. I hope that people enjoy the hard work and passion that the cast and crew put into it

Karen Overstreet:
The need to see more of Rebecca and the creepy world of "Hopscotch"!

[Kirsten] Will we get a full length horror picture some day from you?

Kirsten Walsh: Without saying too much, I am in development of a horror film, with Christian writing it. We wanted to work our way up, and build a great, dedicated crew. I think- I know we are ready, we have to pace it right.

[Kirsten & Karen] What about horror attracts you to it?

Kirsten Walsh: Horror now is much different than it used to be. Everyone knows the old tropes of the blonde busty girl and the masked character (and yes, I realize there was much more to it than that), but now, horror is smart and witty. With
New Nightmare and Scream, Wes Craven really fashioned the future of the horror genre, where anyone could be the final girl and anyone could be the killer. Now that indie film is more out there and widely accepted, so much more creativity is flowing through the genre. But it is that anyone factor that really keeps me intrigued.

Karen Overstreet:
As an actor, it is a fun challenge to be characters and live in worlds that are so far removed from who and where I am in real life.

Karen Overstreet as Rebecca in "Hopscotch"

[Kirsten & Karen] I always ask everyone I interview this, and you two are not an exception. Is horror dead, and why?

Kirsten Walsh: Horror isn't dead, it just is evolving. Now, it is kind of a free for all, where anything can be scary- with the right music! Unfortunately, with all of the tragedies that have gone on in our time, horror has taken the bullet, but that being said, it added more humor. It added more outrageous, impossible kills, it added over the top effects (practical all the way!), and it became more of the filmmaker's genre rather then the studios'. I look forward to being a part of that- a genre where the filmmaker calls the shots, and carves their own way out there.

Karen Overstreet:
Never! I think it can seem seem stagnant sometimes because, more than any other genre, it is easy for filmmakers to fall into the trap of relying on special effects rather than a solid story to make a good movie. That is what was so attractive about "Hopscotch" to me. What makes the film creepy is not knowing exactly what is building between these three women. What makes horror exciting is not what you can see, but what what you can't.

So, there you have it. If you haven't seen "Hopscotch" yet (which I'm guessing you haven't) you now have a new movie to look forward to. Thank me later. It's set for release in the summer, and if you keep your nose out and your eyes open, you may see it touring at some film festivals. 

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