Q&A with Elaine Xia, Director of “Metamorphosis”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Freddy. That was my childhood nightmare. I didn’t finish the film during that time, yet I just saw the last scene with his hand in fire, that still scared me as hell. Can’t find a reason but it’s been my nightmare for a while.

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
My bad ideas are usually romantic comedies / comedies. I tried my best to see if I can direct different types of film, then I found out it’s been very hard to me. My thesis was about a couple not feeling the same anymore after years, but I found out I couldn’t express my feeling through the story. Then after I graduated I just kept being an editor. I felt like maybe I couldn’t be a director, maybe directing is just not for me. Then, after being an editor for a while, I experience things that happen around me, explore from patriarchy. And I also figure out that I have to accept who I am instead of changing myself to fit into others’ standard. So I decide to make Metamorphosis into a horror movie, explore my feeling in my own way.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I don’t know. I feel like I am a part of it but not a part of it. I won’t state myself as a “Horror Movie Director” since I am also interested in different types of stories, but I can tell you almost all the works I did were horror. I think I just have the sense.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Hong Kong. I always want to shoot a story happen in Hong Kong. Not just because I am from Hong Kong (even though I was raised in mainland China), I love the atmosphere that the super tall dilapidated buildings compact together, blocking the sunshine and that totally brings the mood of depression. Also, the old fashion Hong Kong family design brings a fresh look on screen. That’s the culture totally different from other places. But when I had this idea of Meatmorphosis, I wasn’t in Hong Kong. So I often drive to Mulholland drive, there was a viewing point that can see the entire Burbank. I always drive there, with nothing in my hand, just staring at the night view for a long while. I love staying in quiet places, usually alone, and start thinking.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I am going vegan. I am not gonna eat anything from that restaurant. Seriously, this is based on a true story.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
hmmmm. Freddy from the elm street. Jack from the Shining. The robot from short film Bad Robot. Evil AI are always required. Jane Doe from The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The lady and the little boy (i don’t know their name in English) from the Grudge.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy. My childhood nightmare Freddy.
HP Lovecraft. I think his work is based on “unknown”, and what makes people scared is “Unknown”.
Pratical, but I still accept a proper amount of CGI. It just depends. Depends on which one can match the story more. You know, it’s all about storytelling.
Pre Apocalypse. I enjoy the Cyberpunk style set production. And I love stories about discussing humanity.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I usually have my character’s bio written first cuz knowing the characters very well helps a lot for visual story telling. I would also find symbolic stuff and have them written down in script as well, then I will look for a production designer. I need to find someone from Hong Kong cuz I need to do the time and location travel back to 90s Hong Kong from 2015 Los Angeles. So, instead of looking for someone who follows what I provide, I’d rather go for someone knows 90s HK well already. Comparing hunting the props and wardrobe, getting a matching production designer is way harder for this film.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
I am not quite easy to be scared by ghosts or spirits (except Freddy). Comparing with ghosts, I would say I am scared of “Unknown”, like most people do. But people define “unknown” in different way, I guess I just don’t consider “ghost” as a part of it. How I define “Unknown” is “humanity” and “mystery”. During the time being an editor, I met different kinds of people and learn them when we communicate. That does effect me in some way. Humanity is too complicate to understand. And it’s so hard to trust someone when you get older. So the story of Metamorphosis and the feature I am writing now are all about humanity. My new feature is not a classic horror film, there is no blood no screaming no people crying and yelling, it’s a film about people’s relationship. But as I mentioned before, Humanity is something that would scare me.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
I would say Shining. I became a fan of Kubrick after watching it and also “Eyes Wide Shut”. I am always a fan of something that I don’t think I can create. There are a lot of scary movies I love, Shining is definitely not the only one but the one when u ask me it popped out at first.