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Q&A with Spencer Ryerson, Director of “Coil”

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Questions for Alter Filmmakers…

This is our attempt to ask standardised “Interview Magazine” questions of all our filmmakers.  But, we understand that your films are far from standard.  If a question doesn’t apply, take a page from Robert McNamara and answer the question you wish you were asked.

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

I’m not sure there’s necessarily a horror villain I relate to, but high school me (and probably still now) could relate with Jamie Kennedy from Scream, always talking about horror movies and seeking out the latest, not always greatest, nastiest things I was allowed to rent. Dustin from Stranger Things is pretty great too.

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?

For me, the good ideas are the ones that keep coming back and they’re the ones I can imagine the ending to. I find it a lot easier to visualize a story if I know where the story is going to end up. If I have an idea or a scene that keeps playing out in my head over several days or weeks or months, that’s when I know it’s worth exploring further.

One idea that didn’t pan out in “Coil” was the original ending we had planned. I initially was bouncing between whether or not Francine actually goes to the party at the end. One version had Rachel come over and just hang out, another ended with Francine on the floor before the door bell rings. While realistically, I would totally bail on that party if given the chance, it was more satisfying if Francine gets a tiny bit of a win at the end after everything she’s gone through.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

I’d consider myself an avid horror fan, but I’m still pretty new to creating horror content, so not sure where that puts me. It’s always been a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid and it’s a community I hope to be a part of more as I grow as a filmmaker.

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

Music plays a big part in my process. It’s often a piece of music that brings up a particular image or feeling, and as the piece builds, so does the idea. Once I’ve started the writing process, I usually make a playlist that fits the mood I’m going for, sort of serving as an unofficial soundtrack or score to the film.

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

I’d probably stock up on ginger Gravol and antacids ahead of time. Maybe buy a second pack of strawberries too.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

Freddy Krueger, Hannibal Lecter, The Thing, The Entity from It Follows, Long John from Mimic, and Tomie.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?

Freddy.

H.P. Lovecraft.

Practical, although I’m not opposed to CGI when used hand-in-hand to amplify the 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?

For “Coil”, we established early on that we didn’t want cell phones or social media involved. Watching people as they text or scroll through messages is rarely interesting to me visually. By setting the film in the 90’s, there’s a certain timelessness to it, and we liked the image of a coiled phone cord in terms of creature design and how it relates to Francine’s anxiety. Anxiety can be very constricting. It can wrap around your insides, causing you physical pain and discomfort and it can wrap around your brain, filling your head with overwhelming doubts. Although the resemblance to the phone coil is subtle, it was our initial connecting point between the real and more fantastic elements of the script.

I asked Katherina, our makeup artist and creature designer for some insight as well: When I heard Spencer needed a worm for his horror short, I pictured a scary worm sort of like the one in Tremors. When he sent me a caecilian as the reference, I noticed it had a very friendly looking face, almost smiling. This presented an interesting challenge in the making of the creature. We controlled the movement using fishing rods, which took us some practice to help achieve the right personality.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?

My fears definitely shift with age. The thought of my own mortality was something that freaked me out a lot when I was younger. I’m not sure it was so much the idea of being dead as it was the idea being dealt a hand that you can’t do anything about. On a smaller scale, and relating to my own anxiety now, it’s situations I don’t want to be in that I’m obliged to be in, socially or otherwise. I like to be able to have an exit.

I’ve definitely drawn from those feelings and experiences to some degree in my writing. It’s important for me to connect to my characters and for their situation to be relatable, no matter how surreal. For example, the basis for the bridal shower in “Coil” comes from going to my first potluck a couple years back. I had some friends and acquaintances there, but it was still a large gathering of people I hadn’t met and I wasn’t familiar with the “rules” of such an engagement. The long and the short of it is I ended up putting far more effort and anxiety into a bowl of quinoa than one should ever really put into a bowl of quinoa. Luckily no blood was shed, but I did have leftovers for days, so that’s a plus.

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

My go-to is The Shining, but Suspiria (the original) holds a special place in my heart as well.