Q&A with Jessica Valentine & Richard Valentine, Directors of “Lane 9”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
R: Leatherface. I can relate to the fact that he works closely with his family and that very few understand his creative process. I appreciate that he uses whatever he has available to him, always recruiting fresh faces to contribute to his creations, and utilizes the family home as his workspace. We always pull in our relatives to help and our house inevitably becomes the production office when we’re working on a movie.
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?
R: In all honesty, when we started pitching Lane 9 a lot of people thought is was a “bad idea”: a retro horror film set in a haunted bowling alley on Halloween night. Once they learned we were taking it seriously, we gained even more skeptics. It didn’t help that we were shooting with no budget and only ten hours to wrap our location. But, this is also an example of taking in all the suggestions, opinions and feedback and then, after careful consideration, going with your gut.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
R: I consider myself a lifelong horror fan. From childhood, I’ve always taken a thrill in being scared. I grew up on horror movies and comic books, discovering the literature at the most influential time. I’ve made the rounds at the conventions and the film festivals, sometimes as a guest sometimes as a fan. Just about everything I’ve made is for the horror genre, so in that respect, if I’m not a card-carrying member of a particular horror community, I feel it is still my community.
J: I began my career as a SFX makeup artist and an actor. I had always loved horror movies and once I began working, horror always proved to be far more exciting to create. I was even a “scream queen” for a short period and a “first girl”. I really enjoyed that time and have so many cherished memories and it’s how Rick and I met, so it will always be special. I love horror and always will, but for me it comes down to the story and what I’m inspired to tell, regardless of genre. That said, horror has and always will feel like home.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
R: For this film, it was easy. We bowl at the location a few times a year. Neither of us are serious bowlers or even that good, but we have fun (and drink a lot of beer). Jessica came up with the idea, but it’s part of a theme that we keep returning to in our work: finding the horror in the everyday experiences of life. The haunted house is even scarier when it’s your house.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
R: Ask to bowl on Lane 9! But I wouldn’t wear the shoes… Too hard to run in.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
J: Depends on the day, I love variety so it really depends on my mood. But with regards to FX… Practical all day, every day.
R: Pre-Apocalypse (isn’t right now scary enough?)
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
JV: I’m an artist in various mediums and I’m a trained SFX makeup artist with a background in creature and character design. I design and build most of our props and costumes. This helps since not only am I a control freak when it comes to the creative vision, but we rarely have budgets for our projects to outsource. More recently, I designed and built a working vintage puppet for a killer puppet movie we made. For Lane 9 I had specific wardrobe pieces made for the characters, such as Beth’s “Show Me Your Kitties” shirt and Russell’s “Pin Pricks” jacket. I built the devil mask Russell wears, inspired by a real vintage handmade mask from the 70’s I found on eBay, but we couldn’t afford it. The idea with Russell’s mask was to make it look homemade, as it would have been in the era and small town setting. It’s the details that I really enjoy putting together and to be able to create those touches myself is still a special part of the process for me. We love setting stories in the past with a specific love for the 70’s, which makes research even more enjoyable.
We also love to include odes to films we love, as well as other films of ours. Throughout the film, there are little details and Easter eggs we’ve hidden.
For Lane 9 we really focused on nostalgia, which is like capturing lightning in a bottle. But when it’s achieved, it’s pure magic. For this story we really wanted it to feel like small town on Halloween in the 70’s. The location itself is typically a huge deciding factor in the stories we tell and the bowling alley was no exception. We only had two weeks to prep from the time we decided to do the short, but I was able to source some vintage inspired decor and luckily for us we were able to enlist the help of my sister and brother-in-law who both work in art department to help us decorate on the day.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
R: Fear is something that evolves over a lifetime. What scared me as a kid doesn’t carry the same weight today. Now, as I’m older, I’ve discovered that real horror exists everywhere. It’s not just the creepy old houses and abandoned asylums. It can be found everywhere. Real human horror. You just have to look for it and most of the time, not very hard. It’s about putting the horrific in the ordinary and routine.
J: Fear is so universal and at the same time so individual. As a visual storyteller, I truly enjoy the challenge of presenting unique scenarios with universally scary themes, while walking that line of not being entirely explicit, so there is room for individual imagination to fill in the rest. A great example of this is aliens. Many people are afraid of the existence of extraterrestrial life. I am too and it’s because I watched E.T. when I was very little. He still scares me when he screams. Now most people think that’s ridiculous and can’t imagine finding him anything but adorable. Fear is just so individual in that sense and the way it imprints on each person is typically quite specific. A way around that is to not show the entire monster, but instead to show silhouette or pieces of it. This gives the individual the freedom to dream up the rest to fit their taste in fear. As for me, a theme I find truly scary is when “home” is no longer a safe space, regardless of what the threat is.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
R: Tough one. I’ve seen a lot of movies and a large percentage of them have been horror films, so it’s never easy to pick when using a term like “favorite”. Instead, I’ll risk sounding redundant and again mention one of the horror films I respect most, Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I believe it is just as disturbing today as it was in 1974. Hooper captured something that, at times, looks and feels like a documentary. It is so raw and real and visceral, you can’t help but be affected by it. And the real trick is that he did it with barely a drop of blood. At the very least, watch it to learn the power of sound design.
J: The Changeling