I have to admit that while watching Deadgirl, I originally had a strong reaction against it. I just wasn’t quite sure what the directors were trying to do…but to be fair, by the end, I felt like I understood it better. Having thought about the film (a LOT) over the last 24 hours, I was really interested in finding out what the directors had to say about it.
Fortunately, I got lucky and was able to sit down with co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel and ask them.
So one thing I thought was kinda funny is that (a writer friend mentioned this to me) Noah looks a lot like Christian Slater – like from 1988 – in this movie, and then another thing I noticed is that Shiloh kind of reminded me of Joaquin Phoneix. I wondered if you guys had noticed that?
Gadi: Right…we wanted it to feel timeless.
Marcel: Definitely, especially with Shiloh. He was definitely like Joaquin.
Gadi: That is absolutely true.
I was reading online about people’s reactions to this film and at first when I was watching it, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about what was going on. But then by the end, I thought “Ok, I get it”. It did take you a long time to get to the gore and the meat of it. Were you trying to make people uncomfortable at the beginning?
Marcel: I mean, sure. The movie is a slow, uncomfortable burn. And I think that even though it’s a little slow that you sort of go along for the ride and get invested, and that makes things that happen later on have more impact. If we moved too quickly, it would…
Gadi: Yeah, and gore was never the point of this movie anyway, so there was no sense of “Oh we gotta get there” because that’s not why we did it in the first place. It was about the characters, and the situation and everything else. I would say yeah, the goriest scene in the movie is really late, but it seemed to work.
Yeah, it worked. I’m a big horror/gore fan. But this film was really very different from what I expected. It seems like it’s being sold as sort of this horror film/Zombie movie and I think it’s more this insight into these 2 characters and what they’re experiencing.
Marcel: I think for us, we went into it thinking of a classic “coming-of-age” story – from the 80s, and it just happened to have this element.
Gadi: But it wasn’t…about the element. It was just there.
Right. You guys never explained why the girl is there, how she got that way, which I think is really interesting. I like when there’s this mystery there and it’s never really focused on.
Gadi: But you’re right, it definitely is being promoted and written about as if it is this other thing. So when you say “It’s not what I expected”…we hear that all the time. And either people are “It’s not what I expected and I loved it” or “It’s not what I expected and I’m really disappointed”.
I think that anytime you make a film and you’re getting strong reactions, either way, I feel like that’s awesome. That means you guys are doing something to cause those.
Gadi: Well, we got the strong reactions.
Marcel: I’ll never forget that one of the programmers for Sundance who was at Toronto while we there – we were talking about it, and we were complaining about something…
Gadi: Yeah, we had some bad reviews.
Marcel: And he said, "there’s 300 films here, and everywhere I go they’re talking about like three or four and yours is one of them so you guys should be really proud." And we were like, “Oh that makes a lot of sense, yeah”. Even when I read really negative responses on blogs, people take their time with it. And I think “Wow. They were really moved to express themselves”
Gadi: They HATED this movie.
Marcel: Yeah. There are guys that really lay it in.
I definitely had a very strong reaction at the beginning, but I’ve had time to think about it. And I think it’s very interesting and it’s very different from anything else that’s out there.
Gadi: Thank you. And I think, it’s for that very reason that it probably does take a day or two to process it, because it’s not what you thought it was gonna be, and hopefully not like something you’ve seen. But the best reactions are from the people who say “Ok, I saw it two days ago, let’s talk”.
Have you been in a lot of festivals, then?
Marcel: We were at Toronto…and yeah, we’ve been around a bit. We were at Austin, AFI and a couple of international festivals. So we’ve had an interesting festival run, and now we’re anxious to put it out there.
Gadi: Get it out there for people who don’t necessarily go to festivals, or don’t live near festivals. So it’s coming out in September. It’ll be neat to see what non-festival go-ers think when they get a chance to see it. Because at festivals, you’re in a certain mentality.
Did you guys watch it with any audiences?
Marcel: Definitely at the beginning. Now we sort of come in and out to sort of see how consistent it is. You can see how people are reacting and tell whether or not they like it. You can also kind of get a gauge of…you probably saw it on a screener, right? When it’s watched with a large audience, the humor sometimes gets magnified collectively. Half the people are laughing because they’re uncomfortable, half of them are laughing because they think it’s sort of funny, and that collective laughter also makes other people uncomfortable. So it’s a bit of a different viewing experience. I always find it interesting to see – because at some screenings there’s some very muted laughter, because there’s twisted humor in it, and at other screenings people are really letting loose.
Gadi: Even if it’s someone laughing at something that’s audacious, not just funny, but there’s just a reaction. I think that the people who are actually the most disturbed are the people who watch it at home. They’re the people who are like “It was so disturbing” but when you talk to people at the screenings, they don’t [say that]. I don’t know – I feel like the people who say “It totally freaked me out” are not the ones that watched it with other people.
Marcel: I mean, as soon as you’re sort of let off a little bit of the hook, and people laugh – if you’re going with the movie, then you’re like “Did I just laugh at that?” and then you’re still invested, or if you hate the movie you’ll think “I can’t believe I just laughed at that. This is awful! I hate these people – what’s wrong with America?” and, so…well this is a roundabout way to say it, but we stick our heads in and can tell based on the reaction of the crowd how much they’re not gonna like it. Because it seems people get really upset when people laugh. They always mention it, and they’re like telling us dissertations of what’s wrong with the movie…
Gadi: Yeah, and not laughing because it’s funny.
Marcel: They’re just misreading it. That’s the thing.
Gadi: They’re reading the laughter as laughing “at” the situation. As opposed to being uncomfortable. Because, being asked “Does it bother you when people laugh” well – if they’re laughing at what’s happening to this person, that’s not funny. But if they’re laughing at how it’s all going down – which, it does not go down well – then yeah, I totally get it.
I mean, at the heart, it’s just two teenage boys fucking ar
Gadi: And it’s also a movie, so it should be somewhat entertaining to a degree. You know? We don’t want you to suffer watching this. You can think about it, but it isn’t punishment.
Right, you didn’t make the movie thinking that you’re going to intentionally cause harm to women that are feeling upset about it.
Marcel: I would say, actually – and this is just a generalization: Generally, women don’t have any problem with our movie. The people that have a problem with it are generally young guys. It’s very interesting, because everything that’s being spewed back at us about how women are going to hate us, and what’s wrong with us? It says a lot more about them and their inner reactions about women and sexuality.
Yeah, I read that. And I originally thought that people are probably going to be reading a lot more into this film than there actually is, about treating women as objects and having this anti-feminism bent, but then I saw in some other interviews that that’s not really the reaction you’re getting. And in fact, when I talked to some of the women who work at SIFF, they said; “No, I loved it. I thought it was great”.
Gadi: Yeah, people think we’re crazy, but it’s true. The person we encountered who probably hated it the most was this guy who was probably about 20 years old who just couldn’t even look at us.
Marcel: We had one executive at an indie distributor who wouldn’t even talk to us.
Gadi: If we walked into the room, he would walk out of the room.
Marcel: It was so strange. Because this company (and I don’t want name them) but they’re a company that’s…
Gadi: Is proud of their independent spirit.
Marcel: And it was an extreme reaction. Which is fine, I understand. But it was a strange experience.
So I’m gonna nerd out about the gore a little bit, because that’s kind of my thing. I looked up on the IMDB and saw there was some CGI credits – was the gore all CGI or did you do some of it the old-fashioned way?
Gadi: We had one CGI shot in the movie and it was not gore.
Marcel: We had no CGI, actually. That was more for some cosmetic details.
Gadi: Are you thinking of anything in particular?
Oh, no – I thought it was some pretty excellent work actually. Maybe just some of the splatter like when she attacks the dog?
Marcel: That was all old-school.
Gadi: That was splatter….from a dish.
So did you guys have a special F/X person for that then?
Gadi: Yes, he was awesome. There’s a scene where they squeeze some puss of the thing…
Marcel: Those were my hands by the way.
Gadi: He made this – fake torso of her, and he was underneath it. He was incredible. We had a great F/X guy.
And was this first film that you guys directed together? Are you going to do another one?
Marcel: Yes. We just got hired to write and direct a film for Cold Circle. Their last movie was Haunting in Connecticut. But this is NOT that. It’s not a horror film. It’s a thriller.
Gadi: I mean, a disturbing, creepy thriller. But far more thriller than anything else.
Marcel: Very disturbing. But not in the Deadgirl way.
Gadi: But some people will hate us. (laughing)
So is there anything you want to say about Deadgirl that hasn’t been covered? Or anything you wanted to talk about it that you wished someone had asked you about?
Gadi: No, but I will say – and I’m totally ignoring the question for now – I’m glad that you’re somebody who likes the horror movies, and likes them gory and still likes this movie. Because often people who describe themselves as being the same way will be disappointed because it’s not that. So I’m just thrilled that you can say “Well I like that”.
Marcel: Because we get people saying “We wanted more, why’d you hold back?”
Gadi: “You people are pussies!”
I think that the gore is the thing that sort of made everything else okay, you know? Most of the ones that deserved it; got it in the end.
Gadi: I think the most important thing to put out there is: Check out the movie despite – or because of what you’ve heard – just to not let anything turn you off because you might be surprised.
Like I said, I think you guys are getting a reaction, and that’s really important. The worst think you could do is make a film and have people write it off.
Gadi: (miming a yawn) Yeah, like – whatever. It’s good that there aren’t a lot of “whatevers”.
Well, you’ll probably get a lot of crazy questions at the Q&A tonight.
Gadi: Like, “What does the plant mean?”
Marcel: Yeah, what does the plant mean? No, well, I feel like audiences aren’t very satisfied with our answers sometimes. Because there’s some specifics that we don’t like answering, only because we like…
Gadi: Well, I’ll talk about anything, but if it’s something like “What does something mean”, or symbolism…it’s almost like you don’t want to interpret that.
Marcel: Well if it’s something that’s the whole purpose of why we did it, and you didn’t get it, then I’ll say “this is what we meant”. But there are some things where it can mean lots of different things to you, and I don’t want to just give you an answer, because it might mean something different tomorrow. But um…an exclusive about this film? I’m not sure what else we’d want people to know about it…
Gadi: I’m trying to think of something we’ve never been asked, but we’ve been asked a lot of questions. Well…we’re really proud of our little movie. You can ask us when it’s going to be available to the public?
Yes! Of course. When it is going to be released?
Marcel: It’s going to be a small theatrical release…sometimes in late July. In various cities. I’m not sure if Seattle is on the list or not, but I think it is. New York, LA, Dallas, Austin, Chicago – I think a couple of the Landmark theaters are going to be doing some special screenings. And then September is our US DVD release – packed with extra features. Through Dark Sky.
And then, my last question – which is not really related to the film, because Three Imaginary Girls is all about music, what bands are you guys listening to right now? What kind of music are you into?
Gadi: Fantastic question.
Marcel: I’m not a big rap guy, but I just downloaded the newest Rick Ross album. And…who else? Animal Collective. I got their latest.
Gadi: They’re in the movie.
Marcel: They are in the movie, yes. Who are you listening to?
Gadi: I’m much more mellow. You are your rap and your…art pop- I can’t keep up! I just got the latest Bonnie "Prince" Billy album…and I’m going through the Mountain Goats back catalog right now.
Marcel: Why don’t we share music, by the way?
Gadi: Uh, ok. Sure. That can be something we do every week. One album a week.
Marcel: Why not? That’s something we’ve never done, by the way. There’s your exclusive!
Gadi: There you go. This is our new tradition. Every Friday.
girl is playing at SIFF tonight, May 29 at The Egyptian, midnight and again at the Kirkland Performance Center on June 5, 9:30 pm. There will be a Q&A with Marcel & Gadi following tonight’s Egpytian screening.}