Chris Sivertson is no stranger to the thriller genre. His newest effort in that vein is Kindred Sprits, which played at Screamfest this past weekend.
LRM Online talked to him about his frequent collaborations with director Lucky McKee, Hitchcock’s influence on his new movie and the cult fandom his Lindsay Lohan starring film I Know Who Killed Me has achieved over the past decade.
LRM Online: We’re here to talk about the new movie you wrote, that’s playing at Screamfest, called Kindred Spirits. I wanted to see if you could talk a bit about the origin of the project. Is it an original idea of yours? How did you come up with the concept?
Sivertson: It really started with the character of Sadie. Just kind of thinking about people kind of having an early life crisis, instead of a mid life one. Getting into their 20s and having a hard time leaving their childhood behind and becoming an adult. So I was thinking about creating a character like that, and that became Sadie. Then I realized it would be fun to kind of see that character in a thriller setting. Once I had that character in my head, I started thinking about movies like Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt where a girl’s creepy uncle comes to live with her under mysterious circumstances. She loves him but starts to realize there’s something really wrong with him. That was a dynamic I found really compelling the first time I watched it, back when I was a kid.
And then also, it kind of seemed to fit into the world of 90s thrillers. Like Single White Female, a pretty obvious influence on the movie. Particularly, we pay tribute to that movie with the hair thing where the girl’s Aunt Sadie, who’s the crazy main character, starts to take the identity of her younger niece. Those movies together seemed like they’d make for a fun movie I’d like to watch. I always try to write stuff that I’d want to see.
Another influence a little bit was Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. Just the way that he was able to catch the energy and imagination of the two young girls in that. Sadie is kind of like devolving into this more child-like state. It’s really fun for awhile, for her niece to kind of pretend to be a kid again, because the niece is also on the cusp of leaving her childhood behind and trying to decide who she is. So then she has to overcome this role model figure of her aunt to claim her own identity.
LRM Online: That’s interesting. The second you mentioned Shadow Of The Doubt, it kind of clicked in my head. I was like, “Oh yeah. It’s an aunt instead of the uncle.” Similar kind of idea.
Sivertson: Yeah. That’s such a great movie, and I believe it was Hitchcock’s favorite of his films. The way he brought this real darkness to suburbia and having a perfect seeming household and then seeing all the dirt beneath it. I think that movie had a huge influence on David Lynch. I could see a pathway from that to something like Blue Velvet.
Looking at it through an aunt character in modern day, that was kind of the jumping off point. And then all these other influences came into it, but also just really trying to remember what it was like when I was a teenager and those kind of misplaced feelings of angst and then thinking about how an older character could take advantage of that, which also happens all the time in real life. Young, naive people are taken advantage of by older people all the time. And when it’s done by somebody that you love and that you trust, it’s really tragic, and definitely that makes for good material to play with, dramatically in a movie.
LRM Online: It’s tragic in real life, but onscreen it’s compelling.
Sivertson: Yeah, absolutely.
LRM Online: This is another in a long line of collaborations between you and Lucky McKee, and I was wondering where he entered the process. Was he there developing the screenplay with you or was it something that you took to him when it was done? How did that work?
Sivertson: Well, the producer Mike Moran, I’ve written a couple thrillers for him. It was an idea I pitched to him awhile back. He hire me to write it. And sometime later, Lucky was anxious to get another movie made. And the timing worked out where he had a window and Mike had a window to make it in Austin.
So, it all kind of came together really quickly. The script had actually been written a while back. The script was a couple of years old. But then all of a sudden, as happens a lot in movies, there’ll be a script that doesn’t get off the ground right away, but then all of a sudden it happens and when it happens, it happens really quickly. And so the timing worked right. I thought that Lucky would really click with the material, and the dynamic between the three women who are the leads, the aunt, the mom, and the daughter, and his sensibility would really click with it. And it did. And we also share a pretty similar sense of humor. There’s a lot of dark humor in the movie. But we have a similar sense of humor, and I think he saw the opportunity to have, especially with the Sadie character, to have her be compelling, interesting and quirky and kind of funny also.
LRM Online: I should tell you I haven’t seen the movie yet. I plan on being at the screening at Screamfest. You haven’t spoiled anything but the stuff you were talking about in terms of influences, it’s getting me all the more excited to actually see it.
Sivertson: It’s not really the kind of thing where anything I said will spoil it, because you pretty much know when the aunt character shows up very early on. And they don’t really make any attempts to hide the fact that she is not exactly right.
LRM Online: Right.
Sivertson: But I think the fun of the movie is we got really lucky with Caitlyn Stasey, who played Aunt Sadie. She just gives a really dynamite performance. We were trying to create with this character somebody who’s really hard to pin down, who you can’t quite figure out. And she really nailed that. She brings this weird energy to it, to where sometimes you trust her, sometimes you don’t. And she’s just very compelling. It’s kind of like a mystery to try to figure out what she’s going to do next.
LRM Online: That sounds exciting. To follow along and just see what crazy thing she does next.
Sivertson: Yeah. And she really does a fantastic job. We worked with her on All Cheerleaders Die.
LRM Online: The second one?
Sivertson: Yeah. The second one.
LRM Online: That’s a very interesting thing, by the way, remaking your own movie. I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.
Sivertson: It was fun. That happened at a good time to kind of look back at where we had started and just take that original inspiration and try something new with it. But that’s actually another thing that Hitchcock did. There’s a couple of his movies that he remade.
LRM Online: Yeah, with The Man Who Knew Too Much. That’s the one that comes to mind first to me.
LRM Online: So, have you ever attended Screamfest before? Have you had any of your films played there previously?
Sivertson: Yeah. I had a movie called The Lost that was there, and I guess it was 2006. It’s been awhile, and Marc Senter, who was the lead of that movie, won best actor at Screamfest that year. He was excited, and that was a lot of fun. But I haven’t been there in a while, so I’m excited to return.
LRM Online: It’s definitely a cool fest. I try to go every year. I used to be just right down the block there in Hollywood. Now I’m coming from a different area of town.
Sivertson: Same with me. Yeah. I used to live right there. Like when I had my movie there, I walked there.
LRM Online: Oh wow. That must have been cool.
Sivertson: Yeah. And now Hollywood is totally changed. We’ve been going to Beyond Fest this past week, and Hollywood Boulevard is really hectic. There’s a lot going on. I guess there always was.
LRM Online: It gets crazier and crazier every year for sure.
Sivertson: Yeah, totally.
LRM Online: So, I had a couple last quick questions, and I’ll get out of your hair. I was going to ask when you made I Know Who Killed Me, did you foresee it living on as the kind of cult film or midnight movie it has become? Because that’s certainly something that’s developed over the past couple of years.
Sivertson: It definitely has. And the thing with that movie is it was so fast that I wasn’t really conscious of any of that. We wrapped production in March, and then we were in theaters in July.
LRM Online: Oh wow.
Sivertson: For a studio movie, that’s super quick. My head was just so down buried in the thing. And yeah, I’m glad that it’s lived on in infamy or however people want to take it. If people are talking about it, I think that’s good.
LRM Online: That’s that kind of movie I was just thinking right now that at the new Drafthouse here in LA, it could work either on Terror Tuesday or Weird Wednesday, funnily enough.
Sivertson: Yeah. I haven’t seen the movie in like 10 years. I guess it was Cinefamily that had a screening of it shortly after. It was within that same year. It was like Holy Fucking Shit Fest or something like that. I went to that, and that was a lot of fun. But then I haven’t seen it. Actually, recently I found I have a three and a half hour cut of it, and I kind of scanned through some of that. And that was really interesting, because I had forgotten how much stuff we shot that was just cut out of the movie.
LRM Online: Oh really?
Sivertson: Yeah. To a lot of people it doesn’t make sense. And there were a lot of plot scenes, especially a lot of investigative FBI stuff that were just totally cut out of the movie. Again, I think that was partly moving fast and partly because I wasn’t really interested in that. I was more interested at the time with just the weirdness of it all.
LRM Online: Maybe it’s time for director’s cut.
Sivertson: Yeah. I don’t know if that’s possible.
LRM Online: If Richard Kelly can go back to Southland Tales, why not? You can go back to that.
Sivertson: Has he put out a director’s cut of that? I didn’t hear that.
LRM Online: I think it’s the cut that played at Cannes before it came out, and he had to cut some out of it for the release. They recently showed it at LACMA and he was there for a Q&A.
Sivertson: Oh, that’s cool.
LRM Online: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
Sivertson: I’ve kind of been in writing mode, just trying to generate a bunch of new material for the rest of the year to hopefully try to get stuff going next year. There’s a haunted house thing that is actually part of this ambitious multi film slate, that I’m actually working on with Lucky. And it’s still in kind of early stages of that, but that could be really interesting. It’s different stories that all take place at the same house.
LRM Online: Oh. So, are you guys building your own little cinematic universe there?
Sivertson: Sort of, yeah. We’ll see if it actually gets going. But that’s kind of been my focus recently.
LRM Online: Cool. I hope that ends up panning out. That’d be great. And I’m looking forward to seeing Kindred Spirits. Thanks so much for talking to me.
Sivertson: Yeah. Thanks for the interview.
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