In between kicking ass and taking names, Jen and Sylvia Soska have been gracious enough to drop by I Like Horror Movies to discuss the upcoming release of their feature film, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK. For those of you that may have missed our review, be sure to stop by the Twisted Twins Productions webpage for additional information on the film, and check out the DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK trailer available on Youtube and other social networks!
ILHM: Ladies, where did the idea for DEAD HOOKER come from?
SS: We were frustrated with what was being offered to us as actresses, we have been acting since childhood, and decided we needed a change. We had been heavily training in martial arts and stunt work seem like a much more empowering field. There was a new film school that had an amazing stunt program that we enrolled in, but after that section of the course ended so did anything that was amazing about the school. It was disorganized with barely a curriculum. It got worse when time for our final projects came about and they decided to cut funding for our group and insisted that we simple merge with another group. It was horse shit.
We had been going to the theaters a lot because Rodriguez and Tarantino's GRINDHOUSE was playing and it got us so excited about film making. After seeing it in the theater one time, Jen turns to me and says 'Dead Hooker in a Trunk. That's what we should call it. We should make a fake trailer and we should call it Dead Hooker in a Trunk. From there, we decided to produce, write, and direct it in spite of the school. We would present it as a 'fuck you' at graduation with everything they paid to get made. They had a list of everything that was dubbed 'inappropriate' to put in a project, but since it was our own project we could add anything we liked and piss them off in the process. We put almost everything on that list and then some stuff that somehow missed the list. It was exciting, edgy, engaging, and offensive. When we presented, half the audience walked out. The other half was cheering so loud, that you could barely hear our offensive dialogue.
People asked when the feature was going to be made and with the sudden interest, we wrote the script and starting preparing to make the film. The team that came together often joked that the film was blessed because it really seemed that way. There was a writer's strike that left the incredible talent in the city with newly open schedules. We took Rodriguez's indie film making guide, REBEL WITHOUT A CREW, as the Bible on set and used creativity to solve problems and money limitations. People heard about the project and got excited to be a part of it. The script was usual and insane and that helped too. I am still humbled to think of how many people heard this crazy story with a couple of new directors and trusted in that vision. It was incredible.
JS: We've always loved film, particularly horror. Don't you just love a film that takes you on a ride and when you leave the theatre you have that embarrassing "I'm-so-happy-on-life" feeling? We wanted to replicate that. It started with the title, a crap-tastic film school experience, and a whole lot of ambition. The most important thing is to start with an idea that you're really, really passionate about. For our hero, Robert Rodriguez, it was a man with a guitar case filled with guns. For us, it was a dead hooker in a trunk.
ILHM: Are you typically Horror and Exploitation fans?
SS: We have been horror fans since we were little girls. Learning about exploitation films came later when we had grown up and started seeking out different films and genres. As children, we would go into horror movie sections and look at all the movie covers. We would run to the other to show the scariest images or the most gore. My mother had explained to us that is was fake and created by very talented artists, so we weren't scared. Just curious. My mom had a deal with us, if we read the book, we could watch the movie. That's when we really learned about the world of horror from Stephen King. At nine years old, we were reading at a highschool level and starting our romance with horror.
JS: Horror has a very special place in our hearts. I attribute that to my folks and my mom's huge collection of everything Stephen King had ever written. My mom had no problem letting us dig in and read whatever we wished. Not only did it hone our dark sense of humor, as mister King's brand of horror was always sprinkled with his trademark humor, it advanced our reading levels to a highshcool level in elementary school. Much to the dismay of our teachers and principal. I remember I selected "Pet Sematary", because I loved animals. Our teachers' opposition was probably our first experience with censorship. My mom spoke with the principal who was hell bent on keeping us from reading these "inappropriate" books and my mom told them that if we're reading at that level, she's not going to discourage us. As it turned out, we had to put covers on our books, but we kept on reading them.
ILHM: What were your greatest inspirations going in to the film?
SS: That people would have fun watching the film. We wanted to create something people could throw on and have a great time watching.
JS: We're very inspired by so many people, though we try not to be too pointed about who influences us. Stephen King, as we mentioned. Robert Rodriguez. Big time. I really love Joss Whedon, as well. His work has so much playfulness to it, but it also has a lot of heart. I hope our work has the same effect on our audiences. More than anything, we wanted our audiences to watch DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK with pure enjoyment. We wanted to make something fun, horrific, hilarious, utterly ridiculous, and wholly original.
ILHM: What is your method for writing and directing as a team? How do you share responsibilities?
SS: With script writing, we first write an outline that has all the major story points on it. We talk back and forth about what should happen, what would be a cool sequence, and who wants to write what. There's a lot of back and forth and we really support each other. We are also brutally honest with one another, which is important when you are working together. If we get writer's block, we simply tag in the other twin. And because we are twins, we don't have to go into big explanations about things, we just think the same. We do a lot of pre-planning before directing days, one will be the voice for the day and we'll talk back and forth as we shot the day. It's nice to have two sets of eyes on everything.
JS: It's a joint venture and that's really nice. Together, we can cover twice as much, be in two places, work on two totally separate things at once, and work twice as fast. We love story telling and always have. It's so exciting when we start a new project. We'll sit, with energy drinks on hand, and shoot ideas rapid fire back and forth. When we find some common ground, will sharpen our approach and work to feel out the details, set a back story, and go from there. Whether it even makes an appearance in the final project or not, we always have a deep background story for every character. To us, for the film, it's like we're capturing them in a moment of their lives. We have to know where they came from to know where they're going.
Sylvie is great to work with. She will never sugar coat something for you. If she's not sold, you'd sure as hell better be able to make her see what you see. She challenges me all the time. In a good way. If she just smiled and nodded, neither of us would be the artists we are today. The right person will make you into the best version of you and that's fully true with her. We're very passionate about our work. We do, at times, disagree and go at each other, but it's only because we care so much about our work.
On set, we divide up who will have the final say to avoid any possible conflicts. It's never good to have too many cooks int eh kitchen, y'know?
ILHM: How did you go about funding the film initially?
SS: We maxed out our credit cards to pay for anything we needed for the film - props, equipment, food, wardrobe, makeup and effects. The budget was extremely modest, but taking the time off from work to make the film and put it together was really difficult. We had amazing support - lots of people volunteered their time and came out to help the film. Carlos Gallardo of EL MARIACHI appeared in the film for free just to support indie film making and because he dug that we were following in his and Rodriguez's shoes. The actors were incredible and gracious. At the end of the production, our parents, Agnes and Marius Soska, and our crew members, Maryann Van Graven and Donald Charge helped us so we could focus on the final cut and post-production of the film.
JS: A few great friends, a lot of creativity, and a whole poop load of debt. Living the dream, pretty much, ha ha.
ILHM: The credits list no more than 20 people in the entire cast and crew. Did this make filming more difficult, or was it liberating to work on such a small scale?
SS: It was very intimate and close working with such a tight group of people. No one had one job, actors doubled as crew, everyone went the extra mile to make the production a success. We did a fair bit of guerrilla film making, so it was good to work in a small group. Oddly, people would see the camera and just politely stay out of our way.
JS: It made it so much more personal. I hate being on a set where people are obviously just there for the buck. "What are you working on?" "Ah, some local piece of shit. I-don't-know." Everyone on set cared not only about the film, but they love this business. It was our first film, done without anyone looking over our shoulders, so one of the things we wanted to do was show the world just how talented this group of people is. Almost no one had only one job. We had actors behind the camera, we personally decorated every location, we were all in very deep. I think that's something else that makes the film so special. It's important to surround yourself with people who really love this business and what they're doing. Set days are long and hard. That last thing you need on your set is poison. You have enough in the way of challenges.
ILHM: Did you both plan to star in the film from the start?
SS: It was weird. From the get go, we knew we wanted to write, direct, produce, and star in the film. We wanted to be as involved as possible. We would come to locations early, do the set decoration as the rest of the team arrived, then we'd get into wardrobe and makeup as we discussed the day. We would discuss shots and sequences. Sometimes things would go smoothly and sometimes we would have to think creatively on our feet to fix the problem.
We had the characters before we had any idea of cast. We decided to make Badass and Geek siblings, Jen and I playing the roles seemed to make sense. I never had the opportunity to play a bad girl before, so Jen thought it would be cool if I was Badass.
JS: I would say the film is an ensemble cast. I knew we wanted to act in the film. Part of the reason we wrote the parts we did is because of the piss poor roles we had been consistently offered. Sylv had been pigeon holed into the bubbly, sweet girlfriend type roles (polar opposite to her stunning take on our much beloved Badass) and I had been type cast as a mega bitch (I blame the eyebrows...) when I wasn't being asked if I'd take my clothes off. We wanted to show our range and break out of those stereotypes. I'm not sure if we've now type cast ourselves as the Geek and the Badass, but I feel there's a little of both in everybody. that's probably part of the reason people react so strongly to those characters.
ILHM: Was there ever any discussion over who would get to play Badass and who would play Geek, or did you write yourselves into the characters?
SS: After we decided who would play who, we started really going into the crazy scenarios. When we wrote the feature, Jen suggested a lot of crazy things that she thought would be funny to have happen to me. When Jen and I were little, she wore these big glasses ( I got teased when I wore mine, so I went blind rather than be mocked insecurely enough) and was very smart. We were both clever, but Jen was 'I think people under the age of eighteen should have the right to vote' smart and that was at ten.
JS: I wanted Sylv to play the Badass. I knew she'd knock it out of the proverbial park. Admittedly, Badass got to have a lot of fun and at times I wish I was the one in her stylish yet affordable boots, but Geek got to have a completely different variety of fun. Getting roughed up was pretty exciting. I love stunts and it was fun to get slapped around. Everything in my brain was screaming to fight back, but that's what Badass twin sisters are for.
ILHM: You both have such an awesome chemistry with Rikki and C.J. (Junkie and Goody Two-Shoes) on-screen. How did they become involved in the project?
SS: CJ and I were good friends before the film started. The original script had all lead characters as female, but the actress playing Goody dropped out two days before filming. I tried desperately to find a replacement but the material in the script offended almost everyone and the rest weren't interested in working on an ambitious film paid out of two twin's pockets. I started thinking that maybe I should change the role to a male, maybe move some things around. When CJ invited me to a screening for a couple of shorts he did, I saw him play a very Goody-esque character. It was perfect and finalized the male re-write. I asked him if he would play the role and he agreed.
We started filming and after shooting the Junkie monologue at sunset, he told us that he would cut the shit out of that sequence and he was right. He not only cut the film, but also did almost all the post production, color correction, as well as composing original tracks for the film. His song as Goody, I NEED YOU NOW, is one of my favorites. He does so many funny, ridiculous things in the film. We were very lucky to get him in the film.
It's funny because our characters, Badass and Goody, hated each other and in reality, we get along very well. We actually started dating during the production and had our third anniversary this past Halloween. That makes the end sequence with Jen and him very funny. People ask me if it bothers me, but I wrote it and it's sexy as hell.
JS: I love Rikki. She's so incredible, a very talented actress and stunt performer, and she's a great friend. She's full of life. It's funny that Badass and Junkie are bffs, lingering on almost being sometimes lovers, and Geek and Goody were romantic in the film, while in reality Sylv and CJ fell in love and Rikki and I became very close.
I remember when we were looking for a Junkie. Our Hooker, Tasha Moth, a very talented stunt performer herself, highly recommended Rikki. I had worked with her on sets before and chatted with her, but we were little more than acquaintances. I met her at a Starbucks up the street from my parents' place and talked to her about DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, Junkie, and our hopes for the film. I sat there so nervous collecting my thoughts, carefully watching the door so I could stand and greet her immediately. Buy her a coffee, as I like to do when I first meet someone. When she came in the door, she just had this big, beautiful smile that brightened the room. I remember thinking, "Oh, God. She's perfect. I hope she'll do it." The rest is history.
ILHM: DEAD HOOKER has been receiving an enormous response in film festivals around the country, and has even drawn critical praise from cult filmmakers like Eli Roth. Did you ever expect your first feature film to become such a huge overnight sensation?
SS: The response the film has gotten has been overwhelming and wonderful. The support that the horror community has given us is incredible. I get messages from people all over the world about the film and it doesn't feel real. I talk to Eli Roth about what we're up to and he's given us some great advice. When we made the film, we just wanted people to enjoy themselves as they watched it and that came true. Every time someone goes out of their way to support the film, we are just so humbled by it. We started filming in October 2007 and then through various edits, film festivals, and meetings it is at a very good place right now. Currently, it is being handled by the rad team at Industry Works and is in the hands of some very impressive distributors. We should have some exciting news to share soon.
JS: I'm incredibly grateful for all the support we've received from reviewers, sites, fellow film makers, fans, and just everyone. It's funny to hear it called an over night success. I remember at first desperately trying to find someone to watch the film. Anyone. At first it was so hard to get even an email back. Now we have to dedicate hours to responding to our friends in the business, new fans, and so many wonderful people. We personally get back to everyone who writes us. I cannot begin to thank everyone for their support of us and our work. We hoped that DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK would put us on the radar, but we never expected to have so many people love the film. It makes us so happy. So many people support the film and us without ever even having seen the film! We get so many emails every day asking for us to bring the film to them. It makes us so happy. All we ever wanted from this film was to make a movie that was pure enjoyment for our audiences and share that film with as many people as possible. I'm proud to say I feel we have exactly that. It's very humbling.
ILHM: Is a sequel already in the works?
SS: We have joked about a sequel, but we don't have any firm plans. We have about seven projects written that we are interested in making, not to mention shorts, music videos, and other projects like our annual Massive Blood Drive for Women in Horror Month.
JS: It would be interesting to see what a "Desperado" version of our "El Mariachi" would be like. Never say never, right? We are dedicated to not letting our audience down. If they want it, they'll have it.
ILHM: What other projects are the two of you up to currently?
SS: We will be releasing a teaser for our second feature on our site for our second anniversary, December 11th. It's entitled AMERICAN MARY and we're very excited about it. We are also finalizing the cut on our documentary, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE, that we made with CJ Wallis and his company, Forty FPS Productions. It follows the life of four YouTube personalities - David Choi, Happyslip, Daxflame, and Tay Zonday - as they venture in the forefront of this new medium of online entertainment.
JS: AMERICAN MARY is the big one. There is another film, THE MAN WHO KICKED ASS, that I'm very excited to make. I can't say much, but I have a feeling it's going to be very special in a lot of ways.
ILHM: If given the opportunity, would you rather work on a multi-million dollar studio project, or continue making films on an Independent bill?
SS: I'm interested in telling stories that I want to tell. I like working with creative people on interesting projects. If a studio would let me exist in those means, then I would be happy. We are working with some very cool folks that are passionate about the horror genre, which is the best way to work on a project. It's going to be a larger budget than DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, but it certainly isn't in the massive block buster budget range. It's very gracious.
JS: I have a special place in my heart, but I don't think people realize that we work very hard to pull off independent projects. It's hard to work 8 to 10 hours daily on Twisted Twins Productions stuff and still work a day job. For that reason alone, I'd like to work with a studio. Having said that though, we are far from through with Grindhouse. We have a couple killer projects in store for everyone. Whether we have a big studio backing us or not, we'll continue to make films forever.
ILHM: What makes a 'good' movie in your opinion?
SS: Anything that is honest that has a purpose for existing. I want to hear more unique voices. We don't need remakes. We need more originality.
JS: Something thoughtful. Something that has something to say. Something that isn't just obviously manipulative shit that insults the intelligence of their audience. I will watch bad films along with good films. Both can teach you very different things. bad films are important to teach you how to recognize what makes a bad film and how to avoid that in your own work.
ILHM: What are some of your favorite films?
SS: MARTYRS, SUICIDE CLUB, AMERICAN PSYCHO, ANTICHRIST, THE MARIACHI TRILOGY.
JS: WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (yes, seriously), SUICIDE CLUB, AMERICAN PSYCHO, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, BATMAN RETURNS. So, so many... I love films so very much.
ILHM: Has DEAD HOOKER been picked up yet by a distributor, and are there any current release plans?
SS: We have it in the hands of some very rad people. Once things are finalized, we can't wait to share it with everyone.
JS: Soon, my dear. Soon. I can't wait for DEAD HOOKER to be in living rooms across the world.
ILHM: Where can readers find out more about DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK?
SS: You can see everything at http://www.twistedtwinsproductions.net It's our site. We blog and put updates on regularly as things happen. We have more information on DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK and our other projects there. We even have a contact button so folks can drop us a line and say hi!
JS: Our site, particularly our Penny Dreadful Diary.
Thanks again to Jen and Sylvia for creating what is sure to become an instant cult-classic, and for taking the time to chat with us this evening! Be sure to support DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK by visiting the Soskas on their homepage above, the Penny Dreadful Diary and blog, as well as on Facebook!