We sat down with filmmaker William Collins to discuss his latest project KILD TV. Collins’ sophomore feature film follows a crew of a local horror movie showcase. They are used to broadcasting creepy stories of heinous killers, but tonight they are the story, trapped with a real killer among them. We talk to Collins about filmmaking, independent filmmaking, blood, guts, and cow brains.
What drew you, as a director, to the project?
What were some of your influences for the tone of the film?
Definitely, Return of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, and Re-animator. There was a period back in the 80s where the horror genre took this lovely style, I’ve always enjoyed these types of films, I remember as a teen being thrilled by the naughty bits and horrified all at the same time. These types of films where always a blast, thrillers with gore, not taking themselves too seriously, a sort of… tongue in cheek horror, which I think is key. This was one of the reasons we took Michael Muscal as our producer. His experience with Re-Animator and Bride of Re-animator, Ed Gein among many others was a great help leading the charge for that type of 80s style horror we both love.
Did you keep the reveal of the killer secret from the cast?
No, our actors were fantastic and extremely professional in bringing out the nuances in their performances as individuals and working as an ensemble. I had several discussions with the cast to frame each member as a killer during specific sections of the film. If you watch carefully you will see that each cast member had some nuance that was hinting at the possibility of that person being a murderer. Geneva for example lifts Michelle by the cable that choked her, showing us a lack of empathy and a hatefulness towards her co-worker, Dena has blood on her hands and keeps wringing her hands as if trying to rid of it, Lucas gives suspicion by his expressions, Adel shows a lack of remorse and is generally aloof through out the show. One thing I think is great about this script and the movie, is how interesting it is to go back and watch a second time once you know who is the killer. Suddenly you see several subtle manipulations the killer made to prevent an earlier exposure, and that is really fun to see the second time around, which would only work with the performer having known all the time.
Was it tough to hold multiple positions on the production? As director, editor, gaffer, and producer on this film?
This was a hellish shoot from that standpoint. My partner and I functioned as set designers, editor, colorist, producers, casting agents, music director you name it as its typical of this type of low budget project. The hard part I think was that I had set an ambitious goal, shooting with three 4K cameras simultaneously and directing and ensemble cast was hard enough. We also had to create a TV station from scratch, this required that I procure broadcast TV equipment and build a set. I was fortunate to find a local community college willing to help us by letting me borrow equipment they had decommissioned. Luckily I had training as a TV engineer from my TV days as well, so I was able to hook up a lot of the equipment to make the set look alive. We also had to sub-lease the space below our studio give the impression of a larger space. This was just the beginning of the many challenges we faced. There where over 290 composites on the film, every single screen was tracked and composited after the shoot, the screens where black and nearly all shoots had frenetic camera movement with parallax changes, so it was not an easy project, but I am pleased by the results.
What was your favorite scene/s to shoot?
I think the kissing scene with Adel and Geneva was my favorite. I was amazed how the girls got into it effortlessly, during one take Adel kisses Geneva so intensely that she nearly knocked over the cubicle wall. If you look carefully during the scene you can see that happen. They got into it, and when I yelled cut, you could hear a pin drop on the set.
What is your favorite moment in the movie?
The scene when the killer is revealed. I love the way it turned out. We had put a lot of effort, camera and performance wise, to have everybody’s expressions just right for the reveal. I love the track into Sidney (played by Aleeah Rogers), before she runs out of the room. I think everything lined up on that scene, the music is perfect and the timing is perfect.
Was it difficult separating the tones of the TV program and the movie?
I was very careful with the direction of this delineation. We where playing with a very fine line, having worked in broadcast myself, I have seen this first hand. Broadcast talent has a second nature reaction when a camera is pointed at them, it does not matter what is going on, when the camera is on them, they take on their character and perform. Voice over talent does the same, as soon as a microphone is put in front on them they start to project their voice etc. The broadcast team including Dr. Perseco is unaware that they are blurring the line between reality and fiction and soon they are asking the audience for help, but they do so using the character from TV and using a broadcast voice. So as the movie progresses, the directing work was to show their awareness of this habit and their frustration in trying to control it. The Late Night Horror team fights to not act in character, yet simultaneously their situation becomes more and more like the show they normally make a great effort to perform, while they are terrified and trying not to perform. In the end we (the audience) find that the situation has made them look just like the performance they are trying to avoid. I am very proud of how well D.C Douglas performed this nuance, and how the entire cast followed the beat perfectly pealing the layers of the onion at the precise time to keep the audience guessing and enthralled, they are awesome and I was very lucky to have them on the team.
Was the cow head used in the movie real? What was the reaction from the cast/crew to the scene?
Originally I was trying to use a real cow head but I was told I better not do that, if I wanted to keep the peace with everybody (from animal rights to cast/crew who may consider that unhealthy). We had Hawgfly make up the cow head, and what a very exciting prop, Meredith and her team made. Meredith and I poured over photos and examples and they got it looking excellent in just a few weeks. Getting the skull to be able to be cracked and a brain to be removed was a real treat, I had confidence they would be able to get it done and they did an outstanding job, endless to say we are all super happy with how D.C Douglas worked the prop.
The score was very big and I read somewhere that you had a full orchestra behind the score. Can you tell me more about the decisions made with the score?
Nicholas Gati and I where working ideas on the piano for weeks before we started shooting. After I had the first cut edit ready, I had temped the entire film using a variety of Danny Elfman’s music. Nick and I had a very close idea of what beats to hit and how I strong I wanted the score on certain parts. Nicolas wrote out the melodies and scored the entire film before we started recording at Eye Candy Studios and later at Alla Musica studios. Nick recorded the musicians and combined that with pre-recorded instruments many which he personally played in order to create the layers of the score. He is an extremely talented composer and musician. The piano piece that Perseco performs for example was composed and played by Nicholas Gati. Some of the tracks really have to be heard on their own to be fully appreciated. My only regret is that a bunch of the music ended up on the cutting room floor, there was one and a half hours worth of music, so much more was created than what the film called for. Decisions where made after audience testing that push the use of scene ambience during some high tension parts. Our subsequent tests proved our decisions right with our test numbers showing we had a much stronger film by removing some of the score.
I look forward to release eventually a score CD of KILD TV as a product. Nicolas Gati had this comment about his work on the film score:
The film has many different moods that often changed quickly. Keeping the mood of a section going on in the background while accentuating the foreground action was challenging but in the end was an important factor in what created the film’s overall unique sound. We took a unique approach to this style of film and took a chance at creating a score that was a character in itself. I am really proud of are the parts where I really pronounce the main theme after the tension begins to rise. In this film an interesting anecdote is that the theme actually came after I initially started writing the score.
What is next for you? Are there plans for a KILD TV follow up?
I would love to do a follow up to KILD TV. I think its a very cool concept and that it has huge potential, but that decision will depend on our sales. We have a lot of things in the pipeline, we are currently developing a big film with some huge names that I can’t talk about yet, but I can tell you its a theatrical product. Following that we have a dark hero product, similar to Watchmen and just as philosophical but darker and more engaging, it has a single character, but its all you need. I can’t talk about that either but I can’t wait.
Check your local listings for KILD TV, coming soon.