TIFF 2013: The Soska Sisters on See No Evil 2
I met Sylvia and Jennifer Soska at Fantastic Fest when American Mary premiered there, and followed them to ScreamFest with the film. Since they’ve been hired to direct See No Evil 2, they are now in the WWE family and attended Summer Slam with all the WWE Studios filmmakers. See No Evil stars Kane as murderer Jacob Goodnight, so Summer Slam was a bit traumatic for Kane fans as Bray Wyatt’s cohorts blindsided Kane and carried him off into the unknown. The Soskas are Canadian themselves and the WWE is bringing their filmmakers to the Toronto International Film Festival, so I got to speak with Jen and Sylvia before they head off to shoot See No Evil 2. They also made sure to tell me who was speaking each time they spoke on the phone, as they’re pros at doing twin interviews by now, but I think by the end I could tell them apart on my own.
CraveOnline: How are you handling the Summer Slam Kane debacle?
Sylvia Soska: [Laughs]
Jennifer Soska: I’m upset. Everyone thinks, “Oh, he went off to shoot the movie.” I have not even seen him yet.
Sylvia Soska: We haven’t even met him, we haven’t anything. So we were watching “RAW” last night and we’re like, “Okay, here comes Bray. We’re going to find out where Kane is, what happened to him.” And nothing. Not a single thing. And he goes into the corner and does that crazy Regan Exorcist upside down thing. This guy is a freak! Tell me what you did with Kane. Somebody at least ask where Kane is.
Jennifer Soska: I have to say, I love Bray Wyatt’s theme music. It’s just creepily growing on me.
I figured they were saving Kane for Friday night “Smackdown.”
Jennifer Soska: He’s going to be on Friday night “Smackdown?” Okay, I’m writing it down.
Hopefully it won’t contradict anything we’re about to talk about. How soon after American Mary did you start meeting with WWE?
Sylvia Soska: Actually, I didn’t get introduced to the WWE and speaking to them until about three weeks ago.
Jennifer Soska: It was August 3rd. August 2nd we got the script and we watched See No Evil. The morning of the 3rd, we had a meeting with a couple executives from Lionsgate and a couple executives from WWE Studios and we’re so passionate about the project. We’re longtime lovers of the WWE, back when it was the WWF. We actually started watching just as Kane was introduced.
Sylvia Soska: And the funny thing is, it was such a cool opportunity that we convinced ourselves there was no way in hell we were going to get the job. So we read the script and there’s a point in it, I won’t tell you what it is but it’s one of my favorite parts of the script and Jen’s too, we were both like, “Oh my god, this is going to be the best movie ever.” Then we got to talk to them about how we would shoot it, the different things we would do, the strengths and things we would focus on. Even then, we were like there’s no way they’re going to hire us. It would just be too good to be true, and even at the end of our conversation, we’re like, “Thank you so much for even talking to Jennifer and me. It was such an honor and as fans, knowing the script you have and the direction you’re taking it, I know it’s going to be a phenomenal film.” Then we sat there as nervous as hell and I didn’t even want to call my parents just because I was so afraid of jinxing it.
Being a script that you didn’t originate, are you going to do a pass or a rewrite on it?
Jennifer Soska: Actually, being writer/directors, we have a lot of appreciation for the writers of a project. We feel it’s their vision that has to come through. With a director/writer relationship, we’re very close with Bobby Lee Darby and Nathan Brooks, the two insanely talented gentleman from the UK that wrote it, and we are going back and forth in the creative process. I will specify because I think somebody falsely said that we are writing the script. We are not writing the script.
Sylvia Soska: The thing is, their sensibilities are so close to ours and they have this really wicked crazy imagination. There are a couple things we’re tweaking based on location and based on the different kind of things that we’re thinking would be really exciting, especially because we do have time before we head to camera to just amp it up, just a little bit. We really want it to not only be one of these great solid slasher kinds of films that’s very scary, but we want it to be something that you haven’t really seen before so that when you walk away after seeing See No Evil 2, you’re like, “Oh my god, that’s what Jacob Goodnight is all about.”
Jennifer Soska: You will definitely see our sensibilities and style all over it. Although yes, it’s definitely a WWE Studios and Lionsgate film, you’ll definitely see that it was directed by the Soska sisters.
I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. Are you able to push the sexual and religious themes of See No Evil?
Sylvia Soska: I cannot say what’s going to happen in there but I think from just you saying that, you’re going to be very pleasantly surprised with the direction that it’s going in.
How do you approach a slasher movie construct versus the medical and body horror of American Mary?
Jennifer Soska: There are so many beautiful subgenres in the horror genre. We see this not as a slasher but one of those films like a Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street where you have this character, Jacob Goodnight, who by every right should be a horror icon, and we’re really going to develop that in this one. I think in the first one there was a bit of missed opportunity to not brand this character to bring it to that level where people can dress up as him for Halloween and have him on a T-shirt and talk about him, so that’s a huge thing that we’re going to be undertaking in this one.
Sylvia Soska: It’s so funny because after we finished American Mary, you would not believe the meetings that we had with various different studios and various different scripts and they wanted American Mary again. They wanted a medical horror starring Katharine Isabelle in sexy surgeon outfits where she’s doing underground surgery. We had done that. No matter what happened they were like, “Oh, just do it again, do it again.” It was so funny because when we were first selling American Mary nobody wanted it and now everybody’s like oh, we’ll do that again. One thing I didn’t find American Mary has that’s really exciting about the See No Evil project is: scary. I’ve always wanted to make a film with Jen that is so scary and upsetting, it just keeps you at the edge of your seat while you’re watching it. We’re big Hitchcock fans and he always says it’s the lead up, not the payoff, that really gets under your skin as an audience member. And remember, See No Evil 1 had a lot of payoff, but the lead up, the seduction, wasn’t there.
It was pointed out that they don’t actually say the name Jacob Goodnight in the first movie. Will you make sure his name gets said a lot?
Jennifer Soska: Not a lot but you will definitely know that his name is Jacob Goodnight. It’s going to be like the “Breaking Bad” advertisements that you see everywhere that say, “Remember my name.” We have to brand this character. I think that was a huge missed opportunity and probably the biggest missed opportunity in the first film that you should be able to know what Jacob Goodnight looks like, what weapons he prefers to use, how he likes to kill people, the reason he’s killing people, the mythos behind the character. You’ll definitely know who he is and my God, everyone’s going to want to dress up like him for Halloween.
Sylvia Soska: The funny thing is I was reading online and people were saying his name is Jacob Goodknife. That’s because they never said his name. I can’t believe they never said his name in the first one. It’s just the weirdest fluke.
The first film was directed by Gregory Dark and it was the first WWE Studios film so maybe they were still finding their way. When you talk about the HItchcockian buildup/seduction to a kill, do you see See No Evil 2 with a more elegant visual style?
Sylvia Soska: Definitely. I’ve been lucky enough, Zach Lipovsky did their other film Leprechaun: Origins that shot right before this one did and we’ve been lucky enough to look at a few of the shots from that and the style and how that movie’s come together. I don’t think people have any idea the direction that WWE Studios is going right now. A lot of people will brush it off just because it’s WWE and they don’t realize the artful, very thoughtful approach their films are coming out in. I think it’s going to be this huge push of these new films coming out and people are just going to be like, “Oh my God, I didn’t see that coming. Where did that come from?”
Jennifer Soska: We’re very focused on the intention of the camera as well. Way in advance, as soon as we have our script for any project, we break down our shot list and then we storyboard it. We know exactly how we want the flow and the tone of the film to be, and I think that was also something that was missing in the first film. I think that the WWE, as soon as I knew they were making films, I thought it was a match made in heaven. I’m actually surprised that the WWE hasn’t been making films longer. They really are going in a very quality based direction. Not just with their horror films, with all the other places that they’re branching out to. Nobody does entertainment and branding as well as the WWE.
Sylvia Soska: And knowing the different directors and the different films they have coming out, it’s really a privilege for Jennifer and I to be in that ilk. We really are planning on working hard and upping our game from anything you’ve seen from us before too.
Jennifer Soska: It’s so much more than oh, we have money and we have a fan base or a talent pool to pull from and we’re just going to throw them in the movie. That’s not how they do their films at all. Yes, they do put their superstars in the film, but they’re all about putting the quality into the film.