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Festival Interview: "The Retelling" director Emily Hagins

The Retelling -- Currently at Film Festivals!
by Jason Whyte

“11-year-old Charlie Mason and his family take a summer trip to take care of his ailing and blind grandfather. Soon after their arrival, Charlie and his older sister Margaret begin to sense an unsettling presence around his grandfather's house. Even more mystifying to the children is that their grandfather takes routine walks to an abandoned part of town. He claims to meet friends there to play music. Feeling these things are somehow connected, Charlie and his new friend Anne commit themselves to finding the link. The outcome is more than they expected, for a murder from the past has finally found its connection to the present.” Director Emily Hagins on the film “The Retelling” which is currently on the film festival circuit, with an upcoming screening at the Pretty Scary Blood Bath festival in Dallas, Texas.

When did you get the idea to write the story?

My mom had found one of her old books about Japan -- she lived there for a few years in the 80s -- which had several scary folk tales. One was called “Hoichi the Earless”, which was about a blind monk who was led to a graveyard by ghosts. I was inspired by some elements of that story – such as a blind guy led to a graveyard unknowingly by ghosts -- but the main character is his grandson who figures it out.

I remember you telling me that the shooting of the movie was a summer project in 2008, although I’m curious about the whole creative process from when you started writing it to the finished film.

It took three years from start to finish, which was a longer process than my first feature “Pathogen”. In some ways I think it worked better but it almost seemed like a whole different process. I had auditions, worked with a crew and tried to follow what I believed to be the proper steps to making a movie. With “Pathogen”, most of the time was spent trying to figure out what we should be doing next. They have both been tremendous learning experiences from start to finish, but very different.

Being a high school student and a teenager with many responsibilities, and after hearing stories about how so many young people start a project and never finish it, I’m curious as to what keeps you motivated to push forward and finish a project?

The short answer is that I just love movies; watching them and making them. However, there was a period of three or four days during filming of Retelling where everything went wrong or seemingly so. We had problems with “Pathogen” too, but since nobody told me I couldn't finish the project it didn't occur to me. With the second film, knowing that I completed the first was a huge motivating factor to remind myself that I could do it.

It has been a few years since you made “Pathogen”. What do you think you have learned by making this second film?

I learned a lot about working with a crew and delegating work. I also learned about planning and adapting those plans to the inevitable changes that happen along the way. There were some technical aspects such as sound, lighting, certain shots and so forth that I didn't pay much attention to with “Pathogen”, but learned more about them with “The Retelling.”


How involved was your wonderful mom, Megan, in this project as opposed to “Pathogen”?

My mom helped with transportation and craft services on The Retelling. On Pathogen she was essentially my right hand (wo)man- helping me out in pretty much anyway she was able to…and not to mention also being my mom.

Talk about shooting with high-definition video. Is video something that you would like to continue to use on future projects, or would you be interested in shooting on film one day?

We filmed The Retelling on a Sony HDR-FX1. I would like to shoot on film as well as other formats - I'd REALLY like to shoot on RED someday - but it just depends on the project and equipment I have access to. I was able to borrow the camera for “The Retelling” from a friend to reduce expenses.

Naturally you are still learning, but I’m curious what your favorite aspect of making the movie was, and what was the biggest challenge?

My favorite aspect was probably working out the problems we had during production. Not the problems aspect, however the feeling of finding the missing puzzle piece that makes the picture clear.

The biggest challenge, no question, was three days into production. In the span of 24 hours we lost our main location, a key actor, and about $1000 worth of our budget spent on food/equipment for the first three days of unusable footage due to the losses. That's $1000 of a $9000 budget, which was about $10K less than I needed to make the film. We needed every cent. However, we were able find a new location and actor with a day off from filming, and received a very generous $1,500 donation to replace the funds. With a few adjustments, we were able to get back on track with filming the next day.

Naturally you have a lot of influences from seeing film and learning about it. Did you have any filmmaker inspirations for “The Retelling” or any particular films that inspired you?

There is a film version of Hoichi the Earless in a 1964 Japanese movie called “Kaidan”, so that was influential to the story. Also, one of the most intense sequences I have ever seen in a movie is from a 1965 Otto Preminger movie called “Bunny Lake is Missing”. I have an homage sequence in my film for a hospital escape scene.

What do you hope will come out of the upcoming screening at the Pretty Scary Blood Bath Film Festival in Dallas? Do you plan to check out any other films or events while there?

All I hope for is that the people who see it can enjoy it, and/or any filmmakers can learn from it. I plan to see a couple of the other films, but I'm not sure which ones yet.

Where else would you like to screen the film? If you could choose any theater in the world (aside the Alamo Drafthouses, of course) to show the film, which one would it be and why?

Any theater that would be interested in screening an indie-horror film.


Is there a DVD release planned (a’la the online-available Pathogen)? If so do you have a commentary or any bonus features planned?

There should be a DVD release at some point, but we're still submitting it to festivals. A commentary is likely, and probably some behind the scenes footage along with the promotional trailer (that we used for fundraising) and the final trailer, if possible.

What has been the most flattering comment someone has made, either in person or online, about your work?

The one that comes to mind was back in 2005 when we screened “Pathogen” at the former Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin, Texas. Someone I didn't know told me they liked the film more than “Crash”, which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards that year. In general, it's very flattering when I hear from other young filmmakers who are inspired by my movies.

There are filmmakers younger (and even older) than you who are no doubt wanting to make movies or find their way into the film industry. Do you have any advice or wisdom that you can share with someone who is looking to get their start?

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it, and persevere through the difficulties! Every film has unexpected problems, but as long as you believe in the story you're trying to tell don't let anything stop you.

What can you tell me about your next screenplay/film project. (What it’s about, stars, genre etc)?

It's a teen horror comedy, but a lot more comedy oriented than my last two films. I'm actually really excited about this one, and I think it has potential to turn out pretty well if I can get all the elements together.

What has been the best movie you have seen lately, and are their any upcoming films that you are excited to see?

I've been watching a lot of DVDs lately as research for my new project, but I liked “Shutter Island” a lot. As far as upcoming movies, I would have to say “Kick Ass”. I saw it in December at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, a movie marathon that Harry Knowles puts together for his birthday, and I've been looking forward to seeing it again since the minute it was over!

Now that you’ve seen a various amount of films, which would you say is your so-far all time favorite?

I'd consider these some of my favorite movies, it's hard to pick just one: “Lord of the Rings”, “Night Watch”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Zathura”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Adventureland”, “The Goonies”, “Bunny Lake is Missing” and “Pan's Labyrinth.”

”The Retelling” is currently on the film festival circuit. For more information on this film along with Emily’s first film “Pathogen”, visit her official website at www.cheesynuggets.com or visit the Facebook group by clicking HERE.

For more information on the Pretty Scary Blood Bath festival, point your browser to www.doabloodbath.com or the festival page HERE.

-- Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2961
originally posted: 02/25/10 12:25:55
last updated: 02/25/10 12:30:42
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