Sophia Takal makes her studio film debut as a director with a new, socially relevant take on the slasher classic Black Christmas. With a couple independent features under her belt as a helmer, she here moves on to working on a much larger scale.
LRM Online talked to her recently about the Me Too movement, working with the hugely successful production company Blumhouse and the cast of her new movie.
Black Christmas is out in theaters this weekend.
LRM Online: I saw the movie last night, and I really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of the original film, not so much the first remake by the way.
Takal: Oh, same.
LRM Online: I was wondering how familiar you were with the original before you came onto this project and what it is you like about it.
Takal: Yeah, I love the original so much. It seems like a perfect movie. I think the thing that I responded to most about the movie was how elegantly and creatively the kills are done in that film, and also how well drawn the female characters are. And how in the end of the movie, it left me with this feeling that really resonated with me as a woman in 2019, was just this idea that even when you think you have beaten the bad guy, and in my mind the bad guy being like toxic masculinity or misogyny, there’s still actually some evil lurking out there. That was what, when I re-watched it after Blumhouse approached me to make the movie, was the thing where I was just like, oh that’s the tie in to 2019. That’s why it makes sense to make it now. At the beginning of this year, after Me Too and all these women had started speaking out about these experiences they’ve had with problematic men, it seemed like we were making a lot of progress. The conversation was shifting and women were finding power. And then sort of towards the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, a lot of these men were coming back into the conversation without having really reckoned with what they’d done in the past. And that feeling of just like, oh I thought we won the war, but that was just a battle, was kind of how I felt. That was how I felt for the main character in the original movie too, if that makes any sense.
LRM Online: Yeah, I get it. I read something in the production notes, where you were speaking to that point as well. Can you tell me a little bit about the time frame you worked with, because talking to April earlier, she was talking about you two writing pretty quickly, and I know the production was going on, I’m not even sure exactly. This summer?
LRM Online: And then getting into theaters. How was that? Was it really hectic?
Takal: There was something pretty exhilarating about making a movie in the time it takes some people to grow a human being inside of them. I think that there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement and rage, and this movie feels like a reaction to the times in a way that if it were to come out on a traditional timeline, we would have written it and then it would have been a year or more till we got to make it, and then a year or more after that until it came out. I don’t think it would have felt as fresh and that it was talking to people in the moment as much as it does now.
LRM Online: It’s definitely of the moment, but it’ll stand the test of time as something that sadly is ever present and pervasive, those issues that you’re talking about.
Takal: Man, I hope you’re right that it stands the test of time. Or I hope it doesn’t stand the test of time in that all these issues are resolved.
LRM Online: Yeah, things get better. What was behind your decision to bring April on as a co-writer?
Takal: Well, before I brought April on, I had written a few drafts of a version of the movie that felt like a slasher movie. There was just the women, there was a killer, the whole thing. I was writing it with the idea that I’d direct the movie, and I just was like, I’m not excited about the idea of making a traditional slasher movie. I feel like they’ve been made a thousand times before. I feel like in 2019 that’s not the story that needs to be told right now, and April was a film critic whose work I had admired and who I had recently read a script she wrote that I thought was excellent, as well. She is very steeped in the horror community and the horror world and grew up loving horror movies, and I felt like she would be able to help. Through the conversations I had with her about the movie, she was able to help kind of open up what a horror movie could be for me. When we had these conversations, I was like, “You know what, I think you have such a handle on this and what will make this a special and unique movie, would you like to write it with me?” She said yes, which was exciting. And that’s how she came on.
LRM Online: That’s cool. This collaboration definitely worked out. Until reading about it in the press notes and also speaking to April, it had slipped my mind that this may only be, as she said, the second studio horror movie written and directed by females. It’s crazy to think that-
Takal: Wait, what? No, really?
LRM Online: Well, the only one she could come up with is the same one that comes to mind for me, which is Jennifer’s Body, and that was a solid decade ago, you know?
Takal: Wow, crazy.
LRM Online: It’s crazy that it’s taken that long, and I definitely hope it’s not another decade before there’s another. You are kind of trailblazers in that regard. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about finding the actors for the roles, the sorority women. Imogen, of course, I’ve seen in lots of stuff from horror to comedy and so on, but the rest of the cast are a lot of fresh faces, at least to me, who have done mostly TV. How did you go about casting them and finding the right person for each role?
Takal: Well, of course Imogen is an incredible actress and someone I had wanted to work with for years. Then Blumhouse has this incredible casting director, Terri Taylor, who brought in a lot of extraordinarily talented women. I wanted to work with everyone who auditioned, but these particular women, and Caleb who also auditioned through her, who played Landon, just embodied the roles that I cast them in so well. They really felt like those characters and understood the themes we were trying to explore and the way that I wanted to work. They were really open and hardworking and intelligent actors, and that’s really what I look for when I’m casting.
LRM Online: Cool. I think they’re great, and I think Aleyse especially had-
Takal: Oh, she’s incredible.
LRM Online: Yeah, she’s kind of the breakout performance in the movie. How was it working with Blumhouse? I understand you worked with them before on their anthology series.
Takal: Yeah. I worked with Blumhouse on their TV side for Into the Dark, and that was a fantastic experience. Then this was their theatrical side, so I was working with a different group of people. Both times I felt so supported by them and that they were helping me make the best version of the movie that I wanted to make. They weren’t ever trying to convince me to shy away from making this version of the movie. It was a really wonderful collaboration, and it was really exciting to feel so supported. It’s a company that I’ve admired for so long, because they make really interesting, dynamic work. To be able to be part of that family has been fantastic.
LRM Online: It’s great that they do make straight ahead horror stuff, but then they also, with say Get Out, make socially conscious mass entertainment as well. It’s cool that they’re able to do that, and you were able to do that with this film.
Takal: Yeah. It’s really exciting.
LRM Online: I know this probably has taken over your life for the past year, but do you know what you want to do next? Are you currently writing anything?
Takal: I’m working on a few things. I’m trying to figure out exactly what the next thing can be, but this has been not just an exciting experience in terms of making a movie, but going through the process of making something bigger that a wider audience is going to see. It’s a really thrilling time for me.
LRM Online: Well, having seen Always Shine a couple years ago here in LA, I was really impressed by it. So, it’s really cool to see you graduating and moving on to making things on a bigger scale. I think you did a great job with it.
Takal: Thank you so much
Black Christmas is in theaters now!
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