Kevin: Well, Suspension was originally called Sitter’s Night, a short film I made when I was a teenager growing up in Merritt, a small ranching/mining town in the interior of British Columbia. I use to make movies as a kid and get my friends and family to act in them. Sitter’s Night was about a babysitter who discovers that the family she is babysitting for are ghosts. I use to babysit as a teenager and I always thought, what if someone or something was peering through the living room window, watching and waiting. So that was the initial idea and being a big slasher movie fan, I wanted to take a stab at writing one.
The film has a Hitchcock vibe to it and unexpected plots. Did you find it difficult to stay on course and not to reveal too much to the audience?
Kevin: Yeah it was challenging. At first it was a traditional, by the numbers slasher film and as Jeffery and I developed the script, it became much more complex. At one point we decided that we wanted to do a character study of a teenage girl who is an outcast and bullied, much like Carrie. I ended up doing somewhere around 40 drafts. It was a lot of thinking, especially figuring out what was reality and what was fantasy. And then blending the two worlds. It really is Carrie meets Halloween, two of my favorite horror films. It was a balancing act as to how much information to reveal to the audience, while still keeping the mystery intact. Some people will catch on immediately, some have no clue until the end. Even if people figured out what was happening early on, (which Jeffery and I knew would happen) I still wanted them to have fun with the film. It’s very much a psychological thriller wrapped up in a slasher movie package.
Did Ellen MacNevin know about her character and that she was a big part of the mystery with the father and brother?
Kevin: Ellen definitely knew her character, Emily. She had to, since her character was so complex. I thought she did an amazing job of balancing her frailty with her strength. Knowing the entire story was crucial for her so that she could add the layers to her performance.
Did you get to meet with Jeffery Scott Lando? How did you feel he did directing the film?
Kevin: Jeffery and I made our first feature together called ‘Savage Island’, which came out in 2004. I met him when he moved from New York to Vancouver and he was looking for someone to write an indie horror film with him. He had heard about me through a mutual friend and called me up. At the time I was feeling pretty frustrated with sending out scripts and getting a stack of ‘encouraging’ rejection letters in return? So the thought of making indie films appealed to me. It’s great, because I get to write and also be a part of making the film. I also did the production design for Suspension which was awesome, since I had a clear vision of how I wanted the film to look. But then you find out what your budget is… lol. I brought in a lot of favors, since I use to work as an art director and set decorator on music videos and indie films. After we made Savage Island, we wanted to do another one. I pitched ‘Sitter’s Night’ to him and we agreed to pursue and develop that. We almost made the movie back in 2004, but we pulled the plug the day before we were going to camera because we lost our lead actress to a much bigger production. I look back and if we had made the movie then, it would have been much different than what it is now. As we developed the script, the title Sitter’s Night didn’t really fit anymore, so we changed it to Suspension. It took me a little while to get use to the name change.
I had always known it to be Sitter’s Night and it was like renaming one of your children. I am happy with the title and it is a better fit, especially since the movie deals with the suspension of reality. Jeffery and I are pretty relentless when it comes to story and development. We love exploring all the different options and then making (hopefully) the right decisions. You also have to trust your writer’s instincts as well. I thought Jeffery did a great job directing.
He also did all the editing and color correction and it took some time to decide what was the best way to visually show the two worlds that Emily was dealing with. He was so committed to making the best film possible on a very limited budget and I love how the film looks and feels. And our DOP Shawn Seifert was amazing as well. We had a terrific cast and crew who really supported the film. There is a great indie film community in Vancouver and everyone pitches in to help. At one point we looked at possibly shooting in Los Angeles, but Sage Brocklebank, one of our producers (and plays Deputy Jacobs in the film) convinced us to shoot it in Fort Langley, about an hour outside of Vancouver. Sage played a critical part in getting the movie made and I love his performance of Deputy Jacobs. There are so many incredible people I could mention who helped make the film happen. They all came on board because they were inspired by the project and I love that. It does take a village to make a movie.
Which writers work do you enjoy?
Kevin: I am a huge Stephen King fan. I grew up reading his books and he has had a big influence on me. My dream job is to adapt one of his books. I also read a lot of Peter Straub, Whitley Strieber, John Saul and Clive Barker.
Do you plan on writing a sequel to “Suspension?”
Kevin: I have been asked that before… I think right now, the answer is no. But never say never. I have other horror films I want to see made. Jeffery and I have developed a haunted house movie called ‘The Beckoning’. I also have a supernatural thriller called ‘Crimson Falls’ that I want to get going. I also wrote a horror comedy last fall called Puppet Killer, directed by Lisa Ovies. We shot it over the Christmas holidays and should be coming out next year sometime.
What did you think of the cast choice as a writer and how do you think they did portraying the characters?
Kevin: I love our cast. It’s so important to get the right actors and Jeffery and I wanted to get actual teenagers to play the roles and we did, or came very close. It’s not an easy process, we went through a few weeks of casting and I could not be happier with our cast. They were so committed and I thought they all did an amazing job. It was not an easy shoot and they all had a great time together. Vancouver has an amazing talent pool. I love it when an actor enters the room for an audition and I immediately know that they are the one.
This film has some really good old school scares to it, where you influenced by any other Horror/Mystery films?
Kevin: Absolutely. I was lucky to grow up in the 70’s and got to see all the horror movies in the theatre when they came out. I was nine when I saw the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I would beg my parents to take me to all the horror movies that came to town. They took me to a few then stopped, so then I would stand outside our local theatre and ask some willing adult to get me in. Like any other horror movie fan, Halloween had a huge influence on me as well as Carrie, The Shining, The Omen, Rosemary Baby, The Exorcist, etc. I got to watch my favorite directors like Wes Craven, John Carpenter, George Romero, Brian DePalma, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg. Those are the guys that made me want to make movies. I love the horror films from the 70’s. They were story and character driven and they managed to capture an atmosphere that is hard to replicate today. Also the horror genre has been done to death over the last couple decades and as a writer, it is challenging to come up with original stuff.
Do you have a favorite Horror film right now (or film in general?)
Kevin: I do make a point of watching independent horror, such as It Follows, We’re Still Here or The Babadook, which I all enjoyed. I saw The Witch recently and really liked that. I don’t know, I am pretty jaded when it comes to horror. Nothing seems really that fresh anymore to me, but that is because I have been watching them since the early 70’s, so I feel like I have seen it all. So that is the challenge for me, coming up with material that feels fresh even though it has been done before. I usually just watch the horror films that I grew up with; they bring me back to that time and it makes me happy. I’d rather watch Rosemary’s Baby or Carrie instead of another tired remake or sequel.
Is it difficult to write such an intense film?
Kevin: It was. I mean, when I write, I really go into the world that I am creating… and it seems very real for me. Because I was dealing with such dark subject matter, it was challenging at times to keep going with it, especially after so many drafts. There is a lot of myself in the script… I can relate to Emily, I use to get caught drawing gory pictures in class like Emily does in the movie. And her brother Jeremy who has this creepy bedroom in the basement and likes horror movies as well; I also had my bedroom in the basement and it was filled with horror poster, books and comics. My mom didn’t really like going into my room. lol. My family use to hunt deer and moose and there were times when I had to walk past the skinned carcasses hanging from the ceiling to get to my bedroom. And there was newspaper underneath to soak up the dripping blood, which I could hear from my room. So there, that’s why I write horror. I blame my parents. Lol. Anyway, I was glad to be done with the script for Suspension. It was a long time coming and I definitely felt a sense of relief when we finally started filming.
What advice would you offer fellow writers?
Kevin: Just like what everyone else says…. never, ever give up. When I started, I was so committed to it. I knew I wanted to make movies since I was 4 and it was and still is such a passion for me. I wasn’t afraid of letting people read my work and I am always open to feedback. Making movies is a collaboration and you have to be able to work with everyone. I have never taken any screenwriting classes, I learned by watching tons of movies and just writing and writing. And you also have to have the imagination and passion to drive you. I have written a lot of spec material which really are my practice scripts. I have learned a lot over the years and I am still learning. I get a lot of movie ideas, but only a few will actually inspire me enough to sit down and write it. I also have to ask myself, is there an audience for it? I usually pitch ideas to people to see what kind of reaction I get. If you want to write movies, you have to be in it for the long haul and learn the craft. If you are writing specs to sell, be prepared for a lot of rejection and silence. Or you can just go out and make your own movies, like Jeffery and I have done.
What would you like to say to the people who have watched “Suspension?”
Kevin: First of all, thanks for supporting indie film! It’s not easy nowadays to get distribution and there is not a lot of money floating around out there anymore. Years ago, the DVD market was a dependable source of revenue for independent filmmakers and that’s basically gone now. So it’s important to support independent film by either buying the dvd or digital download. It’s interesting to see all the different reactions to Suspension. Some people really loved and understood the movie and some people weren’t as kind. You can’t please everyone and the horror audience can be a tough crowd. Ultimately I try to follow my own voice and trust my guts. Everyone has an opinion, especially when it comes to movies. I’m a horror fan out there making horror movies. All I want to do is put my stamp on the genre that I love and hope the fans enjoy it.
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