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We got the chance to sit down with writers/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski at MCM Comic Con in London over the weekend to discuss their horror film The Void (2016) which is out now on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD.
I am talking to you here today because you have recently released The Void on Blu Ray and DVD. What it your inspiration for writing The Void, which is an unusual film and quite in-depth?
Steven Kostanski: It’s a departure from our usual stuff for sure. I think the biggest inspiration is, we wanted to make an actual legitimate, serious horror film.
Jeremy Gillespie: It’s maybe, sort of a reaction to the stuff we had been doing a little bit. So we wanted to try something new and through a series of discussions, I think, that’s sort of the direction we were thinking of going.
Steven Kostanski: Yeah, it’s one of those things where we felt like we were constantly talking about horror films and films that scared us. It was always a discussion being had and it just made sense. Why aren’t we making a movie like that? It seemed like this inaccessible thing, but really it wasn’t. We just had to buckle down and commit to it. We kind of put the jokiness we were used to doing aside and really dive into building a mythology and taking the material seriously, so I feel like it’s a natural evolution for us.
Jeremy Gillespie: A lot of the early movies too are sort of like playing to the strengths of having no money, you’re kind of working with what you’ve got. So the idea was to get a reasonable amount of money to make a movie, so we could make something that felt more legitimate, or like Steve says, a real movie.
What are your inspirations for this sort of movie? Were there any particular ideas you took inspiration from?
Jeremy Gillespie: We talk a lot about the mythologies that we liked, like Lovecraft and some movies like the Prince of Darkness (1987)
Steven Kostanski: We discussed a lot of movies, but it always came down to the tone or the mythology of the movie and it was never necessarily meant as an 80’s nostalgia piece, it was just those movies all ended up kind of in the same universe. We were more inspired by modern stuff, elements of the Blair Witch (2016) were discussed, because we were talking about stuff that scared us and how do you make a scary monster movie and we were going to movies that kind of freaked us out a little bit. Like Prince of Darkness or Blair Witch and things that really build on ambiguity and use that to its advantage.
Jeremy Gillespie: We are both really big fans of the early Silent Hill games, they were an inspiration.
Steven Kostanski: Definitely survivor horror games played into this a lot.
Especially when you sort of go down stairs in the film.
Jeremy Gillespie: Yeah. It is kind of a weird mish-mash of influences from very high art to very low art I guess.
Steven Kostanski: Yeah. But the tone of all those pieces is pretty consistent, I think it’s the main element we put away. Its like trying to build this sense of dread in our movie which is very difficult to do. You know, like a jokier setting.
Jeremy Gillespie: And the idea of the horror being bigger than, like possibly beyond understanding, I think was a big mission statement I guess.
Steven Kostanski: Yeah, making a movie where the universe felt bigger than the actual run time of the movie.
So are you looking to do a sequel which would carry on from there
Jeremy Gillespie: Yeah, we have been asked that many times. It’s the unfortunate reality of making a movie, you’re kind of selling the rights to get it made, so we don’t technically own the property and if we had the best relationship with the people that did, then maybe that would be something to think about. But I don’t know if I would hold my breathe on that right now. It’s definitely the kind of universe where it’s really interesting and there is a lot of room to move around in.
Steven Kostanski: And in other mediums as well, like comics.
Jeremy Gillespie: It would be great to do a graphic novel, I would really enjoy that actually.
Steven Kostanski: Something which takes the stress out of us actually having to make a movie and build all these monsters would be nice, put it on somebody else to do all that work.
Jeremy Gillespie: Exactly, somebody can just draw it and it won’t take a year to make.
I saw in the film you left a lot of questions open, are you looking to answer those questions or do you think its best to leave it unknown?
Steven Kostanski: We want to leave it up to the audience to make their own conclusions, because that’s half the fun with a movie like this. With these expansive mythologies you wanna let people take it in and put there own interpretations into it. That’s what makes the movie personal for people and when you answer all those questions for them, what’s left to do with the film, what’s left to talk about.
Jeremy Gillespie: I always kind of liken it to music or something, with the lyrics or poetry or something like that. You don’t want to explain it to somebody, because the things that they personally bring to it, the holes that you leave, people can fill in themselves. You are never able to communicate something that is going to be as great as what they come up with themselves. I think to a big degree, something like cosmic horror or weird fiction or whatever you want to call it, that kind of stuff. When you’re reading it on a page, so much of it in something like (H.P.) Lovecraft, Prince of Darkness or whatever, it’s so ambiguous when you’re doing it through a visual medium, I think you have to leave things open, to kind of communicate that same feeling.
I noticed in your history you have done a lot of work yourselves with the visual effects and make up. Were you involved a lot with The Void in that department as well?
Steven Kostanski: Yeah. Well it got to the point where, I mean I could put it on other people to do all that work. Because there is so much stuff, we were so ambitious with the number of creatures and the number of things that had to be built in this movie, I mean, we shot inserts after the fact and I just got in there and had to do a lot of it myself. That’s not to diminish the monumental amount of work that my team did. I was able to call in every favour I had basically, with all the effects people in Toronto, to help out and build and design these creatures and execute them. So we were very lucky in that regard, but I still had to get in there and I had to sculpt and mould and do all the same stuff I do in my day job, just to like get it done because there was so much. That first meeting that we had at the shop where I sat all my crew down and was like, “Well, these are the things we have to make” was a very daunting experience because at the end of it everyone was like “It’s too much stuff”. And so it became a process of, let’s get creative and how do we achieve all of these things with no time and not a lot of money?
Jeremy Gillespie: I don’t think we have ever been accused of having too few ideas, so the unfortunate reality of that is like the list of things that need to get done becomes so huge.
Steven Kostanski: When you put it down on paper and then have to read that list off to the people that have to execute it, that’s when the reality sets in. Oh, that was a very eye opening experience, I have never had to do that before. Usually on our movies I am just like in a shop building it myself and I don’t think I just spent 16 hours making this thing. It’s just not something even on my radar. But when other people are involved, you realise they are only human beings and they can only work so long, then the reality really sets in.
Jeremy Gillespie: That was a big learning experience on the movie too. I think there’s is a real art to delegating work out, because on something this big you can’t do everything yourself. Like Steve would have fucking died if he tried to do it all himself. You have to be very concise in getting everybody on board and not freaking them out on day one.
Steven Kostanski: It’s a skill in itself, delegating and keeping people from walking off the show.
The special effects in the film are really impressive and has that old 80s style cosmetics effect, which is amazing.
Steven Kostanski: It’s all practical, we do a lot of CG enhancements and repairs throughout the movie. Not so much on the creatures, but the rest of the movie there are a lot of unseen visual effects to tidy things up. But as far as the creatures go, everything was practical. Our plan going into it was to do everything practically. I mean having a creature on set is so much more effective than having a tennis ball “Well, we will put the thing there later” the actors interact with it and they’re part of the scene and they’re part of the world and the audience buys into that a lot better than something which has obviously been pasted in.
Jeremy Gillespie: I do take issue with the idea that practical effects are 80s though, because they still get used all of the time, but the problem is that movies tend to paint over them with CG. We wouldn’t do that, but also we couldn’t afford to have done that and so I think that’s why people see a lot of the 80s in the movie, because that was sort of the peak era of seeing that stuff on screen and there was so much beautiful work done back then.
Steven Kostanski: It’s unfortunate the way movies are made now. I think directors and producers can’t wrap their heads around how practical effects work and how you deal with them on set, and they’re used to rushing through their day and not thinking, oh we need four hours for this one shot of this one creature effect. They don’t want to budget the time for it so it’s easier for them to shoot a blank space on the wall and deal with it in post. Everything is about getting to the end of the shoot.
Jeremy Gillespie: I just think there’s like a danger of this idea that practical effects are old fashioned. You don’t want them to disappear because they do still get used in all these big movies.
Steven Kostanski: Constantly. I am getting so much work. I am turning down jobs in Toronto, because everybody’s got practical effects in their movie. I think it’s like anything that trends, we go through eras where practical effects are more featured than others. I feel like in the mid 2000s there was a bit of a switch over and directors like Len Wiseman got really into “I want real werewolves” in his underworld movies and that CG kind of obsession. I think people have got over it a little bit, but it comes and goes.
Jeremy Gillespie: I think for the industry, it’s kind of a learning curve. Well, CG is this new thing and we can do anything we want with it and then you start to realise, well you can’t actually do anything. So how do we best incorporate both these things and integrate them together.
Steven Kostanski: It’s exactly like practical effects work. They can only go so far, there’s a point where it’s only so effective. Just like an old age make up on somebody, it can only look so convincing and so you just have to be smart about how you use it. They’re both tools and both have their purpose, you just have to be smart about how you execute it. Whatever the effect needs to be.
The Void is out now on Digital HD, DVD & Blu-ray. Check out our review here.