Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker, Roger Conners (Rebirth)
-What made you want to get involved in the film industry?
Since as early as I can remember, I’ve had an insatiable desire to create art and perform. As a youth, I was always forcing the other children in my neighborhood to dress up and act out skits based off of my favorite movies and tv shows. Even then I managed to comprehend the importance of production value, demanding they procure elaborate costumes and learn elaborate dialogue, often times against their will. As time went on, I naturally developed an interest in theatre, but my passion for the world of cinema was always my driving force. At 21, I was cast in my first feature film. From that point on, I was hooked.
-From script–to–screen, how close did REBIRTH come to its original vision?
There’s a few sequences in the initial script that we scrapped prior to filming in order to accommodate for time. With that being said, there was still roughly 50 minutes of footage that were skimmed from the final cut. Luckily, I’m fairly confident that all of the omitted sequences will be included as part of the bonus materials once Rebirth sees its physical release this summer.
Aside from that, everything you see in the film was part of the working script. We tried our hardest to not stray from that material.
-What was your favorite day on set and why?
Our first day on set proved to be an incredibly strong start, and we managed to get several major scenes knocked out over the course of roughly 14 hours. It was exhausting, but we managed to film all sequences that take place within the cellar in that one day. That’s including several major death sequences, all of which were extremely messy, so the fact we successfully pulled that off is truly a testament to my amazing cast and crew. It was a really positive and empowering note to start off on, and that energy managed to sustain over the course of the entire production.
-What scene did you enjoy directing the most?
Right around the midway point of the film there’s a scene in which Helen is watching a news report regarding the zombie virus and how the infection is spread. It’s a really simple moment, but Rachel Anderson is an absolutely phenomenal actress who brought so much emotion to her character and how she interpreted the trials and tribulations she experiences over the course of the film. Palpable, real emotion that translated so well in that specific scene, even without her saying a single word. I still get chill watching it, to this very day.
-What is the biggest obstacle you faced while making REBIRTH?
Unfortunately, we experienced a rather tragic technical failure while in post production that resulted in the loss of our initial cut of the film, as well as roughly 20% of our footage. The film ended up sitting in limbo for several years, and it genuinely seemed as though there wasn’t going to be a means to salvage it. Thankfully, Michael Kunz and Malachi Pulte of Disposable Entertainment stepped in and together they were able to recover a large majority of our work. They took a project that was truly on life-support and revived it. I’m extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside those two wonderful professionals, and I look forward to collaborating with them again in the near future!
-What was your proudest moment during production?
We recreated one of the the most iconic kills from the classic 1968 film, and we decided to stay very true to the original execution of that sequence. I remember being on set and watching it all unfold before my eyes and thinking to myself “holy shit… this is exactly why I wanted to do this. And now it’s really happening”. It was actually a pretty emotional moment for me, being such a huge fan of the original. It was truly a dream come true moment for me as a filmmaker.
-How do you get a film to stand out in the crowd in today’s current landscape?
I think a lot of it comes down to focusing on material and context that is relevant and contemporary. I’ve heard it said time and time again that anybody these days can become a filmmaker as long as they can get their hands on a reasonably good camera. Ok sure, but what about the story they’re trying to tell with that film? What about that film is going to make it resonate with the people who are going to be viewing it? And in regards to the horror genre specifically, is it violence just for the sake of violence? I personally feel that really land these days. We’re a very desensitized society and we are constantly bombarded with so much violent imagery and hostile media on such a regular basis that it really just doesn’t have the impact it used to. So how are you going to translate your material to screen in a way that feels fresh and unique? How are you going to get people to watch beyond the first 60 seconds of your film? And how are you going to maintain keeping their attention to the very end? You need to evolve with the times. You need to deliver more than just violence. At least that’s what I tried to do with Rebirth, and the outcome feels all the more satisfying because of it.
-What other filmmakers inspire you to do what you do?
Romero truly was the reason I started pursuing a career behind the camera to begin with. I’ve always admired the fact that he made it a point to interweave a greater message into his films, providing a deeper meaning behind all of the shock and gore. There was such an artistry to everything he touched. It wasn’t just cinema for the sake of cinema, horror for the sake of horror. There was an underlying message to all of it, and I strive to work in the same fashion. I want to create cinema that has purpose. A deeper meaning beyond shock value.
-What is your favorite horror decade and why?
It’s a toss up between the 1970s and the 1980s. When it comes to standout films from the 70s, iconic classics like Suspiria, The Shining, and the criminally overlooked masterpiece Messiah of Evil instantly come to mind. I love the sheer artistry that emerged from that decade, with strong focus on grand scores, bold visual compositions, and vibrant usage of color and lighting to establish a mood or tone. In regards to standout films of the 1980s, I’m a sucker for quality practical effects, especially well executed puppetry and animatronics. Titles that stand out for me would include Demons, Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, and the highly underrated 1988 remake of The Blob.
-What is the next step in your filmmaking career?
For the time being, I’m planning on shifting my focus and attention back to my work in front of the camera. I certainly love being able to craft and create my vision as a director, but acting is what I’m most passionate about. That being said, I do have several scripts that I’m open to pursuing when the time is right, but I’m really just aching for the chance to act again. I’m feeling a bit deprived because of everything that’s transpired due to Covid. Lots of projects were canceled or put on hiatus and I’m ready to get back to work!
But hey, let’s be real here, if I find myself presented with the opportunity to direct again in the near future, I certainly wouldn’t be saying no either!
Filmmakers with horror genre films that are complete or in post production are welcome to submit their trailer & poster to Sharry Flaherty, Acquisition Executive at SameraEntertainment@gmail.com