Q&A with Ariel Zengotita, Director of “Flick”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
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?
In Flick, after I had written the script, I started thinking it was too simple. I rewrote the ending and took it in a very different direction – I was going to make it blatantly clear that the booger didn’t really exist, it was all psychological. Then I was going to have the main character kill his mother. I had a close friend read both versions and completely trash the alternate ending. He basically said that revealing that it was all in the character’s head felt like something he’d seen before, and that the story was much stronger if we just stayed in his head. And the mom thing just felt out of place; it diminished the effect of the overall isolation. Anyway, point of the story, sometimes it takes an outside perspective to sift out the bad ideas!
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Well, I like to pull a lot from my own life. What happens a lot of times is I end up making characters that represent the worst parts of myself – the men I’m afraid I could become with the “right” push. Aside from that, as I’m developing the characters and worlds, I’ll do a lot of research online to flesh the little things out. I especially like psycho-analyzing the characters, figuring out what kinds of bad habits and mental addictions they have. For example, while doing research for Flick, I stumbled on an article about “rhinotillexomania”, which is actually a psychiatric disorder defined by compulsive nose picking. It’s a condition that accompanies stress or anxiety, and other habits like nail-biting. This informed the backstory I was writing for the main character. For example, I ended up adding a bit about his mom placing him in therapy for compulsive behavior as a child, which didn’t actually help his case; it just pushed him to practice his habit in secrecy.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Honestly it wouldn’t be a huge departure from my own life… I’d probably be sad that my wife was gone. She doesn’t like that I put “probably”.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Gill-man, Jack Torrance, David Kessler (in wolf mode), Brundlefly, The Thing, Annie Wilkes, Audrey II, and if it’s not considered cheating, Godzilla.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy, Stephen King, Practical, Pre-apocalypse.
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Well, first and foremost, you have to hire the right people. I’ve created films in the past where the special effects were less than believable, and it really takes away from how a scene impacts the audience. This time around, I knew the effects couldn’t be something that distracted viewers from the plot, and so I was very thorough in my search for a special effects artist. I needed to hire someone with the right skill set, experience, and sensibilities, which I found in Dan Rebert (makeup effects designer for Slither). Dan doesn’t need low-budget short film work to make his living, but he simply loves what he does and was excited about the challenge of creating our weird booger effects. Secondly, I’m a huge proponent of doing everything you can practically and only using VFX when absolutely necessary. I think part of creating something that an audience can relate to is in the textures, physics, and design. For example, the booger in Flick, although it may be alien in some ways, looks like a tick. I think that familiarity is something an audience can believe and feel since ticks already have a negative connotation in most people’s eyes. Also, the slime/mucus element just wouldn’t have had the same effect if it were done in CG.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
Honestly, what scares me the most is the potential of my own despondency. I feel like there’s been a steady loss of childlike joy and purity as I’ve grown older, which is not uncommon, but I’m afraid that one day there will be nothing left but fear and negativity… I’m definitely a pessimist. And yes, these kinds of fears inspire my work. It’s the one good thing about them.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Man, that’s a tough one, but I’d probably have to go with The Shining (although deep down, I want to say John Carpenter’s The Thing).