Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Hacked in the Head Reviews had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with first time Director Sevé Schelenz in order to discuss his found footage frightener Skew. Featuring a road trip going more than a little wrong, Skew (review here) truly entertains, scares and more importantly challenges the audience. I wanted to find out more about the movie and its production and also more about the man responsible for creeping me the hell out! Read on for Sevé's fantastic response and please, please check the movie out on Netflix if you are lucky enough to be able to do so..........

Hacked in the Head: Hi Sevé, it’s great to have the opportunity to talk to you about your creepy horror flick  Skew. I personally really enjoyed the movie and firstly wondered how much of an inspiration The Blair Witch Project was in making it? Also, what are your thoughts on the BWP over ten years on? I still find it incredibly effective and unsettling whereas many horror fans do not appear to agree.

Sevé Schelenz: Hi Mark, I’m pretty stoked to be here… wait, where am I? Oh right, we’re doing this through e-mail and I’m at home. Okay. Actually, I’m very happy and excited to be doing a Q&A with you. Skew has been so well received by so many and it’s an honor to answer questions about the movie. Thank you for your kind words on the film. The Blair Witch Project was absolutely an inspiration for making Skew. When I wrote the film in 2004, there were two main questions that came to mind. The first was what do I actually find scary? And the second was how do I make a scary feature film on the little amount of money I have? With the former question, I realized so many elements of Blair Witch delivered truly chilling moments. One element was the fact that it was shot through a camcorder, thereby giving a truly personal feeling like it was something that really happened and could happen to anyone. The second element was the building of anticipation, the not knowing what was going to happen next. As for my limited finances, I realized I could shoot a film through the eyes of a video camera and the audience would forgive the low budget look of it. Camcorder footage is supposed to look like it’s shot unprofessionally and there are no expectations regarding perfect lighting or high definition quality results. In essence, Blair Witch was truly the catalyst for Skew. In the early stages of finalizing the script for Skew, I watched Blair Witch several times to learn from it. At the time, that film was only five years old so I felt there was room for another film similar in style but original in its own right. I did not want to copy Blair Witch and if you watch Skew I think you will see how truly different it is. Even down to the fact that in this “found footage” dubbed subgenre of horror, Skew does not fall easily into the category. Why is this? Because Skew is not really a “found footage” film at all. We’ve taken that subgenre and turned it on its ear.

HitH: How did you set about casting Skew?

SS:Casting for Skew was a very interesting experience. We decided to go with truly independent actors because not only did we want performers who were unrecognizable in today’s media to ensure the story’s credibility, but union actors were unattainable due to our limited budget. In 2004 there was no such thing as Craigslist so we had to do it the old-fashioned way by putting up signs at acting schools and spreading it through word of mouth. Luckily enough, I did stumble upon a website for actors where you could post your ad, but I’m not really sure if this generated a greater response. In the end, we were able to hold auditions over two weekends and the turnout was… colorful to say the least. I would say 50% of the actors who turned up should not be acting, while another 25% just did not fit the roles. We were very worried that we would not be able to find our three leads. Then, out of the blue, luck struck - and it struck hard. Amber Lewis turned up and read for the role of Eva. We were speechless when she finished and we pretty much offered her the role right then and there. Richard Olak followed with his reading of Rich and he nailed the part. It was down to our last lead, the character of Simon Lacey and in walked Robert Scattergood. Without a doubt, this film could never have been done without him. His screaming alone scared the hell out of me.

HitH: Five years in the making, what factors caused the process to be this lengthy? Did you ever feel like throwing in the towel?

SS: Again, it all had to do with my very limited budget. The reality is I had three sources of funding for Skew – me, myself and I. The truth is I called in as many favors as I could to create the film and this, combined with friends and others who truly believed in the project, were the core of this production. Pre-production and production went fairly smoothly but it also took a lot of the money from the budget to complete. Post-production was the real killer with visual effects taking a long time to complete. I had some very experienced artists working on the shots and it was just a matter of time for them to work on the VFX as they had their daytime jobs that took priority. Not once did I ever feel like throwing in the towel. I am a very persistent person and I was determined from the start to see this film through. There have definitely been a lot of obstacles along the way but I knew it would get done. Also, a lot of people sacrificed huge amounts of their time to help in creating Skew and I would not dishonor them by giving up after all the work they’d done until the film was complete.

HitH: The grotesque distortion of certain doomed characters faces provides a fantastically gruesome effect. What gave you the idea for this?

SS: When I wrote Skew I had always referred to the distorted faces as “blotches.” That’s even what the character of Simon refers to them in the film at one point. Initially I had imagined the effects as being a little more digital looking—this definitely would fall in line with the story. In post-production we had a visual effects artist create three different looks for this effect. Once completed, I had to make a decision. After lengthy discussion, we felt the final version that made it into the film was the most disturbing one. I would also say that the VFX in Skew was inspired by Japanese horror. My VFX supervisor wanted to do something a little different and after doing some research he felt this style was very ominous. Looking at them today in the final version, I have to agree with him and am very happy that we decided to go this route.

HitH: The ending of Skew has provoked much discussion. Which is great! Is this something you hoped for when making the movie?

SS: When I initially wrote Skew I actually had a couple of different endings in mind. I thought long and hard about which one really had the best payoff. I describe Skew as a “thinking man’s film” and I didn’t want to patronize the audience by giving them a conclusion that was expected. Too many films really project their ending right from the beginning of the film. I actually looked to The Sixth Sense for inspiration on this. I remember seeing that film in the theatre and jumping out of my seat when I figured it out—and that only occurred in the last five minutes of the film, exactly where Shyamalan wanted it to happen. At the same time, I didn’t want to finish Skew with an ending that was so obscure the audience wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. Every scene in Skew is relevant and provides a piece to the puzzle that comes full circle at the end of the film. It’s been quite amazing to attend some of the film festivals we have played at and participate in the Q&A afterwards. Not only have I been asked many different questions about the ending, but fans have provided their own creative interpretations of it as well. I’m sure the debate on the conclusion of Skew will go on for a while. I invite all your readers who’ve seen the film to message me through either YouTube or IMDb if they have any questions or want to comment about it.

HitH: Given the time again is there anything you would do differently with Skew? I read somewhere that there were some additional scenes which would give the film a more 'Hollywood feel' - are you still glad these never made the final cut?

SS: There really isn’t too much I would have done differently with Skew if I had the opportunity. It does bug me that it took over five years to complete but I can’t think of how I could have really changed that. In terms of the story itself, I did have additional scenes that were actually shot, but as expected in the process they were left on the edit room floor due to the “fat” they provided to the film. One of the most important and resourceful things I experienced during the filmmaking process was test screenings. We had about five screenings for the five different stages of the film. For every screening we usually had at least one really good piece of feedback that helped shape Skew into a better film. We even did some additional shooting based on this feedback that definitely created a better product. In terms of the “Hollywood feel” I had envisioned a bookends-style setup that would have easily positioned the film for a potential sequel. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any indication of what this would be as it would definitely be a spoiler for Skew. However, I can tell you that I am still glad this was never included in the film. In addition to making Skew a different film, it would have created a “double ending” feeling and that is something you want to avoid as a filmmaker.

HitH: What are your favourite horror movies of all time and why?

SS: I’ve had the chance to attend a few horror festivals when Skew was chosen as an official selection. I met so many horror aficionados that I felt pretty wet behind the ears when it came to all the frightening independent and Hollywood films out there. I learned so much from these horrorphiles that it has really opened my eyes up to films that I still need to see. These include: Let The Right One In, Wolf Creek and A Serbian Film. As for those that I can check off my horror film bucket list: Halloween, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Ring and, of course The Blair Witch Project are some of my favorite horror films. The one true characteristic that secures my love for a film of any genre is story. Without a well-written screenplay, believability is thrown out the window and you lose interest not only for the story, but also for the characters—for whom we’re supposed to be sympathetic towards because they’re living the nightmare—and that is the kiss of death for a movie. I continue to learn from such horror masters as John Carpenter and hope to one day be able to make films as good and diverse as his.

HitH: Have you grown up wanting to write/direct movies or is it something that came later?

SS: Early on in high school I begged and pleaded my parents to buy me a video camera. When they finally cracked and purchased a VHS camcorder—state of the art at the time—I began shooting everything in sight. This random shooting quickly gave way to scripted material as I created short films and commercials. At the time, comedy was my thing and I enlisted as many family members and friends to help me produce these masterpieces. It wasn’t long before I literally drove them crazy with the number of productions I was making. It was around this time when my guidance counselor took me aside and said it was time to decide what I wanted to study at university. The funny thing is, I never thought of filmmaking as an option. I guess I always believed you went on to post secondary school studying to be an accountant, a lawyer, or to study some trade. I avoided the counselor for weeks, as I didn’t know what else I wanted to do. It wasn’t until he finally tracked me down when he let me know that film school was an option. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was to hear that! After five years of university I graduated into the film industry. It’s been fifteen years now that I’ve been working in the post-production field, and in that span have had a chance to create my own original shorts, a television series and a feature film. None of these productions would ever have seen the light of day unless I took the initiative to make them myself. By default, I became the writer, producer and director on these projects in order to get them done. I guess my high school experience taught me to never give up. This thought process has made me a better filmmaker and I plan to continue making independent films for a long time.

HitH: Finally, what's next for Sevé Schelenz?

SS: The festival run is slowly winding down for Skew. With official selections in 40 festivals and six awards for the film, we have done pretty well with the film. Skew also began streaming on Netflix in the U.S. and has been released for DVD sales in Germany. We’ve even had quite a run with reviewers who seem to really dig the film. So the next few months will hopefully find us locking down our U.S. sales for DVD as well as some interest in other markets. In terms of our next project, we are just putting the finishing touches on another feature script and will spend the next little while gathering funding and preparing for pre-production. Yes, it just so happens to be another horror… but this time we’re going a little more traditional and stepping away from the POV style of filmmaking. It was definitely fun to play with that sub-genre of horror, but it’s time to change course and scare the hell out of our fans another way. But don’t worry, this film will definitely have its share of twists.

HitH: Thank you so much Sevé for talking to Hacked in the Head Reviews! We look forward to news on your new movie soon!

SS: Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to watch Skew and put these questions together. I’m really glad you like the film and I hope your readers have a chance to check it out. I’m pretty pumped that Skew turned out the way it did and look forward to hearing from more fans. Thanks for supporting independent horror and keep the pen sharp and the blood flowing!!

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