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Q&A with Jared Callahan, Director of “Meat Eater”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?]

The shark from Jaws. He is just doing his thing — surviving — and yet it wounds everyone around him. The more I learn about myself the more I realize my ego is always trolling forward devouring people. I’ve just thought that’s what white, American, Christian, upper-middle class, cis, straight, neuro-typical, able-bodied people do. Sharks gotta shark, survival of the fittest, right? Yikes…

Therefore, in growing through that, I’m deeply drawn to the characters like the Joker (who wants to burn a system) or Edward Scissorhands (who exists on the outside of accepted society). The stories of the outsiders will always shape me into a more open and loving being. That’s the only way to kill the shark.  

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?

I have bad ideas every day! I wanted to have the girl get shot on camera and her body just blow backwards into the air! We tried it, and it looked terrible. So fake. The only way through a bad idea is by finding the nugget that made you like it in the first place, then adapt it to fit, or cut it out like a cancer.

The deeper I get into filmmaking the more I realize that the ideas themselves are fairly worthless. I love them, they feed my soul. I can live in my imagination, but in order to bring others into the vision you really have to try and tell the story. You have to make something, anything. And undoubtedly everything I make is always radically inferior to the perfect story I told in my head. So the act of courage is not having an idea, but being willing to make something out of it. At this point in my life I’d take any completed film over the best story idea ever had…

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

I always feel like an imposter. I’m always comparing up. I help manage a small farm, but have trouble calling myself a “farmer.” I’ve pastored at a church, and feel like it’s disingenuous to call myself a “pastor.” Same with art and film. It is so easy to look at the masters and say, “Wow, what they do is filmmaking.” So, 100% both yes and no, I feel a part of the horror community and I don’t; I’m new here and am content to watch and learn. In all those circles I feel most comfortable being on the outside of the inside.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?

This film came fully to me in its entirety. All our ideas are informed by everything we’ve ever watched, thought, discussed, and observed. But this full idea just popped into my head and wouldn’t go away. The feature story takes more time to develop as a slow-burn cannibals versus their neighbors plot where you’re rooting for the cannibals…but in the end, this short is pretty much birthed exactly as it wanted to come into the world.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?

I’d be fucked. This tight-knit community of backwoods cannibals who also watch Netflix!?! My best chance would be to befriend the lead villain and be her sidekick or something. That’d work out for me until she’d just decide to eat me. 

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

Pretty much just demons. Demons that control animals probably. And Kate Beckinsale as Selene from Underworld, maybe we’d get to make out before we all die.   

Lightning round:

Freddy or Jason? As a kid wasn’t allowed to watch either.

Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Need to read some Lovecraft.

Practical or CGI? Mix the two! It’s 2020, come on (but practical : )

Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse? Pre, but both.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?

Not living up to my full potential terrifies me; wasting my life. I normally make documentaries, and they all gravitate toward following people on the outside of systems, and then also people who are trying to make things themselves. I love the process of creating things, of making art. It is a battle, and because I always feel like I’m losing it helps to tell stories about people making things they love because they have to. Making things is part of being human. So not making things, to me, is death.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’

I’m new to scary movies. I live at an art farm church community in the hills south of Oakland. Our farmer-artists are obsessed with horror films. They throw cool screening events, like watching The Witch projected outside at night by our goat pen…freaking terrifying. So, I don’t have a favorite yet, but really enjoyed The Night House by David Bruckner. We saw it at a Sundance midnight screening in the Eygyptian and it was wild. I jumped out of my seat once. And fun to follow a protagonist that makes good decisions the whole film; that was refreshing, and then even more scary on another level because it just keeps getting worse for her.