Interview with Nick Jongerius – director of THE WINDMILL

Nick Jongerius
Nick Jongerius
FREDDY: Thanks for answering our questions. I really enjoyed The Windmill!

NICK JONGERIUS: Thank you very much! Really appreciate the attention and hopefully I’ve answered your questions to your satisfaction.

F: Besides the climax of 1931’s Frankenstein, I can’t think of a windmill being an important set piece in a horror film. You’ve built an entire film around one. Why?

NJ: Hahaha. There is a small part for a windmill in Sleepy Hollow, but I guess you are right. I think windmills have followed me my whole life. I was born on a street called the Saw Windmill street, which was near an old creepy windmill. Where I live now there are a lot of windmills too. They kind of creep me out, because they stand tall in the field and have no windows. If a swinging blade hits you, you will likely die. I really liked the idea of this thing that creeps me to be the arena for my feature debut.

F: The Windmill successfully blends classic tropes of slasher films, “The Twilight Zone,” and traditional ghost stories and legends. I feel like the “dark and stormy night” style of storytelling is in short supply these days, so what inspired you to bring it back?

NJ: Thanks. I hear what you are saying and I agree. Chris Mitchell (screenwriter) and I really love the old Amicus movies and Agatha Christie. These stories in which strangers get stuck with one another and once the shit hits they realize they have something in common. In that sense this film is definitely a throwback to these old movies. I like characters who are outspoken and differ from each other. It gives tension in a group and the horror elements change the dynamics constantly. The film is also an homage to old Grimm Fairytales. I really like horror films with lots of fantasy elements in them. For me realistic horror is hard to watch (and to make). I like the work of Guillermo del Toro or Tim Burton where you know the horror is contained in this unrealistic but interesting world.

F: This is the first English language film that you’ve directed (the rest were Dutch). Why did you choose to work in English for The Windmill?

NJ: It is really hard to make a horror film in the Netherlands. There is just not enough interest in them. People here tend to dislike horror films set in their own language. It might have something to do with the fact that we as Dutch are really down to earth and not too superstitious about ghosts, fantasy or anything of the sort. We produced Frankenstein’s Army and saw the potential of getting interesting concepts made in English, which opens up the world as your market.

F: You’ve assembled an outstanding cast in The Windmill. This isn’t necessarily true of most slashers, and I really appreciate the push back against the dumbing down of the genre that you and filmmakers like you are making by taking the process seriously. When so many production companies see horror film projects as a means to a quick ROI, why is good casting so important?

NJ: Well, I really appreciate it. I worked really hard on getting the cast right. I spend a lot of my time on set with the actors. It was key for me that the performances were at their highest level. I had such an amazing cast who gave so much and brought so much to the table. It’s really hard for actors to play in a horror film. So much is created afterwards in sound design, editing, etc. An actor really needs to trust a director on a project like this. In the casting process I really went for performance above anything. I also assembled the team like a football coach. It needed to be a team. Individual performance is nothing if you as an actor are not a team player. Acting is about reacting, and you can only do that if your fellow actor is willing to help you during a scene. We talked a lot and had extensive talks as a group and me with the actors individually.

F: Do you believe in the devil, and if so what sort of deal would you like to make with him?

NJ: I’m a big fan of Stephen King and I learned though his books that you should never make deals with shady people. It will always backfire.

F: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of The Windmill use to describe you?

NJ: Oofff. That’s a good one. I guess a lot was probably done behind my back 😉 but I would say: demanding, intense and a little strange.

F: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

NJ: A suitcase filled with non-traceable money.

F: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

NJ: On this film every kill scene was an onset disaster. I got a lot of grey hairs from making them. This was because we had everything against us… remote locations, everything needed to be in-camera and it was all set at night. In the end I love every scene and I think our SFX team Rob’s Prop Shop did an amazing job.

F: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?

NJ: All the clichés… great characters, interesting story arcs, but the most important thing I guess is that you as a director have to fall in love with it. You have to be willing to defend it ’til the death.

F: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?

NJ: Scanners. I just love that movie and think that with the right approach it could have potential for a remake. There are so many story elements in it that could click with a future audience.

F: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?

NJ: Apart from this film I worked on a Dutch youth drama series where an adopted girl on high school hears that she needs to leave the country because of regulations. We follow her on her last days at school and eventually she leaves. It was based on a true story and the episodes got immense response. It was heartbreaking and one of the things I’m still very proud of.

F: What’s the strangest project that you’ve ever worked on?

NJ: I did a commercial for a pizza brand where we literally took a whole day of shooting for two shots of people driving a car. The script was bad, the client was constantly on our case and it rained the entire day while it needed to be sunny. It was not a good day.

F: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?

NJ: I wish I met a funny filmmaking mentor. They are all so serious here in Holland!

Thank you so much to Nick Jongerius for answering all of our questions! You can read my review of The Windmill here.

Interview with Peter Winther – director of PAINKILLERS

image source: IMDB
image source: IMDB
Peter Winther is the director of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”

NOTLP.com had the opportunity to ask Mr. Winther a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie industry Enjoy!

NOTLP: What attracted you to Painkillers?

PW: I love Science Fiction as an entertaining genre to reflect issues that affect our society today. The themes of our origins on the grand level and a tale of redemption on the personal level attracted me to Painkillers.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

PW: Brilliant, Handsome, Humble.

NOTLP: One of your early jobs was as an Associate Producer on Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi action adventure Stargate. I saw some of that project’s DNA in Painkillers. Were you conscious of the similarities when you were making the film?

PW: Every film you make affects the ones you will make. Roland has been a great friend and mentor to me so certain aspects of his style have rubbed off on me. Things like composition and how he is excellent at leading the cast and crew into battle are aspects I admire the most about him. As far as story similarities, I don’t see any. I suppose there is certainly a similar sense of wonder about what is discovered though for sure.

So was I conscious of the similarities? Not at all. Sub-Consciously? Maybe.

NOTLP: Do you have a personal interest in military and government conspiracy theories?

PW: I do like a good conspiracy from time to time. I think we all do. It’s always fun to explore the great “what ifs”. Like they say, it’s not a conspiracy if it’s TRUE!

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

PW: If there was a physical aspect of TIME. I would love to find that as we never have enough time to shoot.

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

PW: The first one that comes to mind was on Stargate, going back to that. There is a scene where all the bedouins come over the sand dunes at the end to fight the aliens. We were shooting in Yuma, Arizona where they have these amazing sand dunes. They shot all the Jabba the Hut scenes there for Return of the Jedi. We had spent a lot of time and energy keeping this one area of sand dunes clear of any vehicles or people so that they would be pristine of footprints or tire tracks. This was an alien planet after all. So the big scene arrives. The dunes are clean. We have one take at this as 1000 extras. actors and stunt people are about to defend the dune. 6 cameras are placed. Action is called. Our actor who is leading them into battle races toward the main camera straight ahead of him as directed.

However for some reason, ALL the extras didn’t follow him. They went a sharp right. They were told to run to the camera, but the only camera they could see from their starting place is to the right!

Now we were faced with a torn up sand dune. So while Roland went off to shoot some other things, we all grabbed brooms to sweep the footprints away as back then the tech wasn’t there to digitally remove the footprints. But we came back end of day and got it done.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a screenplay?

PW: For me its creating the emotional arcs of the characters. With that, hand in hand, comes the structure. But if you don’t create enticing characters, you can’t attract top talent to play the roles and consequently get the film financed.

NOTLP: Remakes of horror and sci-fi films are big business and often draw a whole new generation to classic stories. If you were asked to direct a remake of a horror or sci-fi film, which would you choose and why?

PW: We were actually talking about this the other day. The one that came to mind then was the Dennis Quaid film DREAMSCAPE. I think we could knock that one out of the park now.

NOTLP: What is your most memorable experience working in TV or film?

PW: Independence Day was a huge experience for me obviously. But I think the most memorable to me was my first movie. Straight out of college, in fact I didn’t even attend graduation to work on it, I worked on a film called THE GOOD MOTHER that starred Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson. I started as a PA, but then the director asked for me to be his assistant on the film. The director happened to be Leonard Nimoy. Not only did I learn alot from him about directing, about how you need the courage to make choices and lead from the front and so on. However, he also taught me about being a good person. He knew everyone’s name from PA to lead actor. He treated everyone with respect and listened to all ideas. He was simply a great man and I’ll never forget my time with him.

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your filmmaking mentor ever gave you?

PW: Dean Devlin is a great mentor of mine and he’s also quite hilarious. I remember one day coming into his office on one of the films we did together. I would tend to come to him when I felt something was going wrong and had to vent. This day in particular I was wearing shorts due to the heat and what I had to say was quite helpful toward the project. So after that Dean said I should always wear shorts when I have something important to say as then he would know it actually was important. That turned into a running gag over the years. I kept a pair of shorts handy at all times and would put them on when ever I had to make a point. No matter where we were. =)


 

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Interview with Tahmoh Penikett – star of PAINKILLERS

Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett. image source: IMDB
Tahmoh Penikett is the star of the upcoming sci-fi action thriller Painkillers. “Painkillers tells the story of a squad of marines sent on a classified mission deep in the war-torn mountains of Afghanistan, but when they find the mysterious item they were sent for… it’s not what they were expecting. The next thing they know, Major Cafferty (Penikett) and the surviving squad members wake-up in a military medical facility with no memory of what happened or even who they are. Using an experimental drug, doctors try to “reboot” the soldiers’ memories, but one by one they fall prey to bizarre hallucinations and homicidal fits of rage. Only through snatches of resurfacing memories does Cafferty begin to question the true motives of the hospital staff and discover the shocking, deadly reality behind the otherworldly artifact they found.”Penikett is also know for his work on the TV series “Battlestar Galactica,” “Supernatural,” and many others. NOTLP.com had the opportunity to ask Mr. Penikett a few questions about Painkillers and his life in the movie and television industry. Enjoy!

NOTLP: How were you cast as Major Cafferty in Painkillers?

TP: Got a phone call from my agent that the director and producer, Peter Winther wanted to discuss a project with me. I read the script, liked it, we had a Skype conversation where I shared my thoughts on it and we signed not soon after.

I also suggested some casting ideas, one of which they were actually able to cast, Colm Feore as Doctor Troutman. He’s an amazing actor and i’ve always been a huge fan. I can’t tell you how excited I was to work with the man.

NOTLP: What three adjectives would the cast and crew of Painkillers use to describe you?

TP: Cold blooded! Hangry! Disruptive!

NOTLP: You’ve made a career of playing characters at the center or periphery of vast conspiracies. Has this made you paranoid?

TP: Paranoid? Who said i’m paranoid?! Oh.. I see your game. You work for them, don’t you?! Of course you do.. So, for the record, I Tahmoh Penikett have nothing to be paranoid about. Dec. 15th, 2015. 1:33 PM.

Joking aside, I of course I have some paranoia. Anyone living in the Western world who doesn’t in this day and age is likely living in a bubble. We’ve quickly gone from the suggestion of an App having access to our private photos, text, emails and even our phone conversations being widely considered a huge invasion of privacy and an illegal act, to now blindly accepting that this is a normal part of having a phone and living in the digital age. If the fact that anything you type, any photo you take, any correspondence you have in confidence can in theory be accessed by a god dam flashlight application you’ve downloaded, means that we shouldn’t have some level of paranoia , I don’t know what does.

Have you heard about the Dollhouse?

NOTLP: I’ve heard that you’re into Muay Thai. Have you ever had to use these skills to defend yourself in the real world?

TP: Yes. Yes.

NOTLP: What would you love to find laying around on a movie set?

TP: Ninja weapons to attack the producers and cast with.. but like, child friendly ones, so one really gets hurt. BUT, i’ll have everyone soon looking over their shoulder for surprise Ninja throwing star attacks, or Nunchucks attacks to their cabbage!

NOTLP: What onset disaster has ever happened to you?

TP: I don’t know about disaster, but we did stop shooting Dollhouse one day and quickly cleared the studio because of a strong earthquake tremor. I’ve also unfortunately heard about loved ones passing while working.

NOTLP: What’s the scariest movie of all time?

TP: The Exorcist. Without a doubt.

NOTLP: What are the most important qualities in a role?

TP: For me, I want to challenge myself as an artist. Meaning, i’m trying to take roles that scare me. But, foremost I need to understand the characters story that i’m potentially going to take on. I want to understand what drives this character in the story.

NOTLP: If you could play any role from horror or sci-fi literature, comics or film, what role would you choose and why?

TP: Roy Batty in Blade Runner, of course. Because it’s the most bad ass role ever in all of time. I don’t in anyway think I could ever do better than the amazing Rutger, he was absolutely brilliant, but damn would I love a crack at it!

NOTLP: What’s the funniest advice your acting mentor ever gave you?

TP: Hmm.. I once was in a hot, sweaty, cramped room in the dead of summer with forty other eager drama students, patiently waiting for a very well respected, veteran actor who was going to speak to us about the craft. He was over an hour late., but finally arrived with a cocktail in hand, three sheets to the wind, smoke in his mouth, and every bit the cool ass actor we expected him to be. We all wiped the sweat from our brows and excitedly focused in for the experienced wisdom he was about to gift us all with. To summarize, the most memorable thing he said was, “it’s all bullshit. Just remember, it’s all bullshit. The whole f-ing thing. Bullshit.’ There was about 45 minutes of this and then it was done. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but definitely unforgettable.

NOTLP: What’s your favorite line of dialogue (yours or anyone else’s from any film, TV show, etc)?

TP: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die. or  It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?”

NOTLP: We asked our readers/listeners what questions they would like us to ask and these are the two big ones.

NOTLP Listeners: Is the set of the television series “Supernatural” as fun as it looks?

TP: Yup. It is. The cast and crew have a well oiled machine, obviously. Jared, Jensen and Misha really set the vibe though with their funny and light on set attitudes. But, they’re always professional when the camera is rolling and they knock it out like the pros they are.

NOTLP Listeners: Were you satisfied with the conclusion of “Battlestar Galactica?”

TP:  Satisfied. Yes, very. Do I think it could have possibly gone on for a season or two more, potentially yes. But, it was Ron Moore’s creation and his to conclude when he saw fit.


 

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