Saturday, 10 October 2015

EJECTA - Greg Klymkiw Interviews Co-Director Matt Wiele, PLUS links to Klymkiw's reviews of Ejecta and his interview with screenwriter Tony Burgess - COUNTDOWN TO TADFF 2015

My countdown to the 2015 Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF 2015) will feature a variety of pieces on great genre work in the tradition of this terrific film festival which occurs in Toronto, Canada, Oct. 15-23, 2015. Let this countdown serve as a buffet of delectably exotic appetizers before the Big Meal Deal of my festival coverage.

COUNTDOWN TO TADFF 15 #1 is in honour of Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada's recent DVD release of the Foresight Features/Raven Banner presentation of EJECTA. Here's Greg Klymkiw's interview with co-director Matt Wiele, followed by links to reviews of the film and an interview with screenwriter Tony Burgess at the cool UK online mag, "Electric Sheep". You'll also find a few links to related materials throughout the piece - just don't click on the fuckers until you finish this Klymkiw-Wiele conversational reverie.

Interview with Matt Wiele, co-director of EJECTA
By Greg Klymkiw

GREG KLYMKIW: I love this movie so much. I've been following UFO reports for two decades (shortwave weirdness, Art Bell, George Noory, Chris Rutkowski from Manitoba, etc.). [Screenwriter Tony] Burgess told me he essentially wrote to order for you guys on this idea. So, where, how and why did you guys come up for the idea of this film? Did your inspirations come from all the "semi" legit UFO stuff? Or, perhaps, even the popular academic stuff in those great books by the astro-physicist Michio Kaku and his thoughts on parallel universe, multi-dimensional theories, etc?

MATT WIELE: Thanks for the love! Your review that came out during Fantasia [2014 International Film Festival in Montreal] was my favourite and I'm not just blowing smoke up your ass.

GK: I'm not partial to receiving many things up my ass, least of all lightbulbs and gerbils, but I will take all the smoke up there that I can get.

MW: It was just so great to read how well you got what we were trying to do with Ejecta.

GK: Some might call me a sick fuck, but I take UFO and alien stuff pretty seriously. Speaking of sick-fucks, let's hear about Burgess and your influences, etc.

MW: Both the idea and working with Tony Burgess came in a series of folds, first from the intent to make a very tense, fast and fucking scary found footage film. It evolved from there to include a larger wrap-around story about the whole institutional side of the unknown. For me the inspiration was simple in its truest form, which was, if I could think of situations in life that would scare the vomit out of me, like full-on puke-my-guts-out chunk blowing terror, it would be getting chased by an alien in the woods.

GK: Given that I believe in the fuckers, I can't say I'd disagree with you.

MW: Pure and simple. Complete and utter terror. Though actually it is complex, considering we're talking about aliens being real. The universe as a whole is just way too big for my tiny mind to comprehend so I have, and will forever be dumbfounded by all of it. Because of this I tried to keep the idea simple.

GK: Simple is always best. It's the things that yields the layers. So, what's the simple pitch?

MW: A crazy conspiracy blogger [played by Julian Richings], claims to have been mentally-invaded by aliens for the last 40 years. In an addled state, he asks a young videographer {Adam Seybold] to come and meet him to tell his story on-camera. That night a small spaceship crashes nearby and the two guys get mega-terrorized. The wrap-around to this involves a creepy, kick-ass Black-Ops military babe [Lisa Houle] who overseas a series of horrific experiments upon the crazy blogger.

GK: What I love about Foresight Features and Blackfawn Films [the visionary rurally-based Canadian production companies that co-produced Ejecta] is that the work is rooted in the country livin' - or at least, not fucking Toronto. These are locales both companies hang their shingles in. To what extent do you feel this has informed Ejecta? Do you guys naturally look to the skies in the Guelph/Collingwood areas? I ask out of personal experience. I confess, living way north on the Bruce Peninsula for most of my existence, I do. Do you feel there is something about the rural "psyche" which allows more openness to notions of ET life and visitation? To what extent, if any, do you think this informed the project?

MW: Like I said before, I find great comfort or understanding from simplification and for me it boils down to the fact that when you're in a city with millions of people, buildings and endless sensory stimuli, it's far easier to be distracted by what surrounds you on the human level instead of what surrounds you on a cosmic level. In the rural setting, especially dare I say "out in the country" where there are no street lights, and the only illumination at night comes from the moon and the stars it's essentially impossible to ignore. Just like you experience up on the Bruce the skies are fucking big out here. That isolation also plays perfectly into horror and sci-fi tropes. Whether it's two guys out in the woods being chased by an alien, a group of kids out at a cabin in the woods being terrorized by a slasher character, or even humans lost in space, it all stems from some form of isolation when terror strikes. I find myself getting into a trance at times just staring out at the sky while my brain shuts down trying to process. With that isolation and opportunity to sit and stare I think there is a more accepting thought of "what the fuck is out there?"

GK: The idea of the aliens creating what is, essentially, a fucking living room in Julian Riching's mind to hold their ET kaffeeklatches got me soooooo hard. The fuck, you guys? Where'd this sickness come from? Did you ever consider shooting these alien get-togethers in some perverse literal construct of Julian's brain? If so, were there, like, armchairs with doilies and coffee tables and shit like that? If this never entered yours and/or Tony's diseased minds, is it, or something similar to it, a possibility for a prequel/sequel?

MW: [Laughs uproariously. Perhaps too uproariously.] That's amazing. That "living room" in Julian's mind was, naturally, all Burgess. Tony has such an amazing ability to not fall into the standard or obvious story paths - duh - and he thought it would be interesting to set it up as if these things would probe or experiment with Julian mentally and not in the way we're used to seeing wherein aliens would abduct him and poke his asshole looking for human answers. Further to that, I always had a strong mental image of Julian's character performing a crude autopsy on a table in his shed with just a simple hanging light over top as he was poking and prodding this thing, so we tried to flip a typical dynamic between man and alien on its head. As far as having shots of the aliens in cardigans playing cribbage in Julian's head, we didn't think to roll with that, but now that you mention it...

GK: How much pull [booze] is consumed when you guys work with Tony? How does pull contribute to the early stages of the creative process? Would you ever consider having creative meetings up north here with Ma Pincock and her boys so you could create with her magnificent home brew whilst cavorting with her hideously deformed lads? [For further insights into this statement, read my interview HERE with Tony Burgess on the Foresight film entitled Hellmouth - scroll down to the section entitled "PULL, MEAT DRAW and PINCOCKS".]

MW: The pull had become quite customary when gathering with Tony. For those unfamiliar with the term, "pull" refers to single malt scotch, typically amongst 12-15 year old lads, often of the Highland variety. We use pull more as a reward than a constant for the creative process. Often it would go that we would get the wheels turning at a nice pace on the creative side of things before introducing our first sips. As Burgess has coined, "earn the pull". Due to some lifestyle changes the pull has been put on hold so despite the generous offering, I would have to respectfully decline the homebrew, at least for now. Maybe on the next film however.

GK: It seems obvious to me how you two directed Ejecta. [I refer here to co-directors Wiele and Chad Archibald, the latter of the pair having bailed on the dubious opportunity to talk to me, in spite of the fact that I cascaded huge wads of critical semen upon his new film BITE, which you can read HERE.] You see, Ejecta has two concurrent narrative/stylistic movements, so for me, it makes sense without even knowing the facts. Would you like to talk about the creative collaboration in terms of the planning of and shooting of the film itself? It'll be fun hearing from you separately on this. Here you'll have a shot at trashing Archibald if desired.

MW: One thing I've learned about Mr. Chad Archibald is that he is immune to being trashed as it's simply impossible to do so to such a good man. [Oops! Maybe y'all need to read my decimating Klymkiw-special review of Archibald's The Drownsman HERE.] Working together in a variety of roles across this film, as well as on Hellmouth and Septic Man, I formed a strong bond and respect for his work ethic and wealth of talents. It was damn interesting and exciting working together on this as I took the reins at the start with the POV style shoot, getting the first chunk of production done and then moved into full time producing as Chad directed the second production. It was an incredible lesson in creativity and adaptability to make this film come together the way it did. Collaboration was king throughout as it always should be in independent film. Without your army around you it's damn near impossible to make anything in this industry.

GK: Was Julian Richings always a part of the equation, even in the earliest stages of creating the film? He's probably one of the world's greatest character actors. How do you work with him? What's his process as an actor and how do you mesh with it, encourage it, repress it, etc.?

MW: Yes, Julian was always part of the equation and an actor we've wanted to work with for years. He's a tremendous talent and even more, a tremendous human being. Initially I had a few phone calls with him and set up a table read for the second-to-last-draft of the script along with Adam Seybold, Tony Burgess and myself. From there it was final refinements based on everyone's notes and then, off to the races. I think we meshed very well as I had full confidence in Julian, obviously, and he, in turn, was incredibly confident in me, which, being a first time director was key. What I loved most about working with him, aside from always making my job much easier thanks to his talents, was that he always had great insights and offerings for the character and the specific scenes. This was especially true when it came to the found footage stuff, where blocking the scene was incredibly important and finding the marks not just physically, but also from a story and dialogue standpoint, was incredibly vital. Julian is a trooper and his dedication to his performance and the team is humbling.

GK: The movie is fucking scary on a number of levels. How do you specifically infuse those things that scare you into the film?

MW: I tried to keep the tension of what scares the shit out of me as a central pulse to the POV footage and characters. I think it's like directing in a manner that's similar to how actors try to call on personal experiences, to put themselves into the right space for their characters' emotions. I think we have to do that as directors.

GK: You and Archibald must both have distinctive voices as filmmakers. How aware are each of you in terms of your respective personal stamps? How do these mesh and/or positively repel each other throughout the entire process of making the film?

MW: I've been the producer on six features, but have only directed one, so I think my voice hasn't been fully established. Hopefully I can direct more projects in the future and start shaping the concept of who I am as a filmmaker, but right now my focus was pace, action and scares. I think Chad has an incredible voice in the Indie horror community and his stamp is obvious in terms of production quality, execution and originality. I'd say his voice was essential in making this film shape up the way it did and in such a creative way after filming the original content. I think for both of us keeping things positive and enjoyable for everyone on-set is key. This is especially important when adversity hits, the cold creeps in or a gag isn't working exactly how you envisioned it. It's key to have the positive propel you through the challenges you'll get hit with every single day on set.

GK: In terms of post-production, the end result feels like you both had definite ideas about the coverage you needed in order to play with it fruitfully in the cutting room. Were there any surprises post-shoot which informed the final product? If so, what were they?

MW: This film was an interesting beast to cut together. Initially we had all envisioned a linear timeline for the story but after a rough assembly we felt we needed to ramp up the pace and tension, sticking with the intent to always aim to create something great. I took on a lot of the final editing duties as Chad was working away on his next feature and after a ton of insight from fellow filmmakers and Foresight Features producers, Jesse Cook and John Geddes, we went with the multiple timelines colliding and that really made the thing sing. It kept the audience guessing, the pace and tension high and demanded a lot of the viewer. I found editing this film to be one the most challenging and rewarding times in my career. It was both a demon and a delight.

GK: Did you guys ever consider having more babes in the movie?

MW: Indeed we did. It's always a discussion that comes up when planning a film and story. However, we try not to get hung up on "this story needs X females, Y males, Z races". We just let it happen naturally. Specifically to the central female character Tobin, Tony was absolutely set on her being a hard-ass, and ultimately, completely crazy. Lisa [Houle] did a great job pulling off that wildness.

GK: Did either of you indulge any of your fetishes with respect to the film and the finished product? If so, would you mind elaborating? I guess what I'm referring to here is how most genre directors including greats like Hitchcock and DePalma barf-up their fetishes all over their films.

MW: Originally there was going to be a death scene involving the alien absorbing Julian by way of his skin, which when we started filming it kinda looked like they were fucking, so we turfed it. Also, I've never really had a "fucking an alien fetish", other than the gal with three boobs in Total Recall, of course.

GK: Of course!

Ejecta is on DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada


Click HERE to read my original Fantasia Festival review of EJECTA

Click HERE to read my DVD review of EJECTA at Electric Sheep

Click HERE to read my INTERVIEW with Tony Burgess on EJECTA at Electric Sheep