Jen and Sylvia Soska made a big splash recently at Cannes with American Mary and Kristian caught up with the Soska sisters to ask them about their Cannes experience and upcoming projects. He also learned about their favorite movies, most wanted superpower, and their weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse:
What inspired you to make a film like American Mary?
Sylvia: After we finished DEAD HOOKER and were working on distribution, I was talking to Eli Roth, who is literally one of the best, most coolest people on the planet and he asked me what other scripts we had in the works. I actually had nothing at the time, so I lied and threw a bunch of ideas for scripts that I thought I could write really quickly. He said that the one about the medical student sounded interesting, so I went with that. The idea came from an April Fools prank I saw online involving identical twins. It had creeped me out so much that I got obsessed with it. Anytime something scares me, I try to learn as much about it as possible because I find educating yourself is the best way to dissolve a phobia.
The more I learned about this misunderstood and scapegoated community, the more I got to really dig what they were about. I used that underground group and mainstream society as a basis for the story with Jen. We were struggling a lot and had been for years to find our place in the filmmaking world and used that analogy for the situation Mary, a struggling medical student finds herself in.
Jen: There is a lot of personal material in AMERICAN MARY. Not exactly literal, but definitely inspired by our experiences working in the film industry. I find the topic of what’s on the outside as opposed to what’s on the inside fascinating. Appearances are incredibly deceiving in life and people rarely turn out to be what they appear to be. Much of that is incorporated in AMERICAN MARY.
Was this film more difficult to make then your previous film Dead Hooker In A Trunk?
Sylvia: In some ways yes and some no. When we made DEAD HOOKER, we had complete control and final say over everything that made it into the film, but we were also the ones paying for the film, doing multiple jobs as as the cast and crew were, and calling in the favours on a no budget production. With AMERICAN MARY, we had an incredible team that were consummate professionals with years of experience in all their departments. We still were involved in every department, but when you have people whose work is so high quality, it brings a whole new level of professionalism to the picture. With DEAD HOOKER, we wanted to make something that was fun to watch, that you could turn your brain off and just enjoy. The people who came together on HOOKER felt the same way, and even though our crew was small and almost everyone was doing multiple jobs, I love the film and experience that came from it. With MARY, I wanted to show people a side of us that you didn’t see in HOOKER. It’s a very meticulously put together film and really beautiful to watch. HOOKER was a love letter to Grindhouse, MARY is a love letter to foreign horror films.
Jen: There are always challenges in filmmaking. Anyone who tells you otherwise is feeding you a steaming hot pile of bullshit. We had an incredibly tight schedule and an ambitious project. That was probably the greatest challenge. We had to think on our feet and our previous work on DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK really prepared us for that. I am not a believer in film school. I believe the best film school is making your own independent film. At the end, you have a film you can call your own and there is nothing that can prepare you for what it’s like to make a film aside from actually going and doing it. It’s never been easier or more cost efficient, especially with digital taking the place of film. The film you’re currently making always feels like the most difficult one or at least it has been so far in our experience. I’d take the problems of DEAD HOOKER any day when I was in the heat of making MARY, but I very vividly remember making DHIAT and thinking, “thank God I’ll never have to go through this again.”
Have you ever thought about doing any of the body manipulation yourselves and if so what would you want to do?
Sylvia: I sometimes feel very boring in comparison to my work. People will see the films and meet us and be surprised that we aren’t how they imagined us. I guess a pair of perky, fast talking, foul mouthed twins isn’t something anyone expects. Because of the content of the film and my respect for the community involved, I wanted to have an experience to better relate to them. I haven’t done anything but I’ve been to suspensions before, when hooks are inserted into a body and the person hangs from these hooks from the ceiling or some sort of set up. I have a hook from Russ Foxx, the coolest flesh artist ever, on my blackberry until I build up my balls to try it.
Jen: ha ha, I don’t know. If I did, I’d certainly give Russ Foxx a call. I feel that I’m always changing as a person and an artist. I find different ways and means to express myself, so I don’t know if I could ever settle on one permanent change that I could feel I’d always be happy with, you know? Particularly with so many people getting every variety of piercings and tattoos and modifications and elective surgeries. It’s almost more unusual to get nothing done. It’s certainly more of a rarity.
How was Cannes Film Festival? Any fun stories you’d like to share? How did your premiere go?
Sylvia: We were absolutely spoiled by the worldwide market screening we had for the film in Cannes. Market screenings are usually sparsely attended and usually people walk in and out of the screening because there are so many other films to watch and there is this idea that you can see ten minutes of any film and know if you’ll be interested in buying it. We had a packed screening room, only one person left – she ran out of the theatre shaking her head during a moment of what I like to call radical feminism, they reacted beautifully to the film with laughs and cringes, and even respectfully sat through the credits. I was so fucking proud of my team that truly killed themselves to make the film what it is. It was a very humblingly kind reaction. I was thrilled.
Jen: It was one hell of an experience. It was both exactly what I expected in some ways and not at all what I expected in others. We went with some wonderful members of the AMERICAN MARY team and that certainly made a difference. And I traveled and stayed with Sylv. That always makes a massive difference. I’m very lucky to have her. The screening was more than we could have hoped for. The audience was very generous and after working so long and so hard on the film, as filmmakers, you kind of lose touch. So to have people cheer, and laugh, and groan, and react just makes it all worth it. It’s like you instantly see through their eyes.
If you could work with one actor or actress today who would it be and why?
Sylvia: One of the first actresses I ever met who has kind to me was Katharine Isabelle on the set of JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. I’ve always loved her work and meeting her again after all these years and seeing what she creed with Mary was more than my already extremely high expectations of what the character would be. I would love to work with her again. I prefer to work with cool, hardworking people, so those are the types you’ll see on our sets. I’ll be bringing a lot of my MARY cast back again, but I have meet some cool actors I’d be interested in seeing how we’d work together on in the future, too.
Jen: We had an outstanding cast for AMERICAN MARY. We certainly hunted hard for them. I’d love to work with them again. We’ve already spoken with several of them about future projects we have waiting in the wings. There is a lot of talent out there. I love the relationship between an actor and a director when the two truly form a bond of trust and work together to bring a story and a character to life. Sometimes, an actor has to come out of their comfort zone and take risks and that’s a beautiful thing. I admired that relationship between Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, but I feel that way with ourselves and Katharine Isabelle and Tristan Risk. There are many actors I’d like to work with, but I rarely write for a particular actor. I usually focus on the character and find an actor that I feel can bring that character to life.
If you could have any super power what would it be and why?
Sylvia: Teleportation. I want to be able to travel back and forth great distances more easily without having to take a plane. I suppose the best super powers would be Jesus powers, though.
Jen: Aw, that’s a good one. I always wanted super strength. I thought that would be cool. Lift anything, move anything, be able to flick someone and knock them out. That would be rad. Telepathy would be cool, too, though I’d probably hate hearing what people are honestly thinking all the time, ha ha
What is your all time favorite horror film and do you think you’d survive if you were in the movie against said villain or evil entity?
Sylvia: I love AMERICAN PSYCHO. I’m pretty crazy and only a sucker for gentlemen with blue eyes, so I think I’d be safe.
Jen: AMERICAN PSYCHO. Would I live? Yeah. I usually carry a knife in my bra or in my boot (size depending) on dates. I’d probably end up being his accomplice.
If a zombie apocalypse happened what would you use as your weapon of choice or would you make one?
Sylvia: A large calibre gun. Probably a desert eagle for head shot kills and lots of ammo. I really don’t want to get eaten alive, that probably came out wrong.
Jen: It would be highly dependent on what type of zombie outbreak it is. Like, how is “zombie” transmitted? If I didn’t know, I’d have to chose something long range. Like PSG-1 sniper rifle. I’d want to stay the fuck out of range. It’s usually the blood and the biting that transmits it, right? A sledge hammer would be a necessity for close(ish) range.
Who are you a big fan of personally and who inspires you to continue to write and make films?
Sylvia: I’m a huge fan of Robert Rodriguez, Lars Von Trier, Clive Barker, Wes Craven, and Mary Harron. I’ve had the distinct honour of actually getting to meet incredible filmmakers like Eli Roth and James Gunn who are brilliant directors and cool guys that are willing to give advice. It’s very rad when you get to meet someone you admire and they turn out even more amazing than you could have ever hoped.
Jen: Many of the same as Sylv, but some different. We always joke that she’s the Lars Von Trier and I’m the Joss Whedon. I love Stephen King, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Takashi Miike, and Hideo Kojima. And, of course, Joss Whedon. I love the way he writes characters and these beautiful story arcs that have these profound payoffs that sometimes take a whole series to play out. It’s outstanding. And his BUFFY had a very strong impression on me. He showed me that I could be strong, no matter how little I appeared to be. I really admire him.
Where can your fans reach you if they want to contact you?
Jen: We’re also on Facebook and Twitter. We’re “twisted_twins” on Twitter and on Facebook we use our real names. We love to hear from the people who support us. Everything we do is for them.
What is next on your plate in regards to films or writing after American Mary? Anything you are able to mention or talk about?
Sylvia: Jen and I are very lucky with the opportunities we have before us. We are hoping to work on BOB next, but we have also developed with very cool take on the werewolf genre with our friend and prosthetics God, Todd Masters. We recently came back from several meetings on Los Angeles where different projects were discussed, so we’re going to see how those turn out as well. All things in our tastes and all we do is work, so we’ll keep working hard at making crazy fucked up shit.
Jen: We have no shortage of our own scripts and projects. There is so much we’d like to do before we’re done. We also have more and more opportunities to work on other people’s projects as well, which is exciting. We’d definitely be adding our own flair, while remaining true and respectful to the material. There’s much more we’d like to take on than films, as much as we love filmmaking. We’ve got a TV series we’ve been working on since we were teenagers. We’d also like to write for video games and for comic series. We’ve loved Marvel for ages. It would be a real thrill to have the chance to write for them.
This is a giant summer for Marvel movies with The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man. Last question, if you were a Marvel superhero who would you be and why?
Sylvia: That’s so funny, because Jen and I have this AVENGERS vs THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN bet going on. I am a diehard Spidey fan, so you can imagine who I picked. I’ve always loved Spider-man, but I don’t think I would like to be him. I’d probably prefer something ultimately destructive and powerful like the Phoenix or Magneto.
Jen: That’s a loaded question. Cuz it’s one thing to have their powers, but it’s something else to have their lives. I love Deadpool and Rogue, but they’re pretty lonely. I love Daredevil, but he has a pretty tragic life. I guess it would have to be either Magneto, cuz he’s got it pretty damn good and he’s wicked powerful, Thor, cuz he’s got that whole ultimate power demi God thing going for him and I’d like to have a sibling that I spend so much time playing and ultimately battling with, or Tony Stark, cuz he’s just awesome. Yeah, Tony Stark.
We want to thank Sylvia and Jen for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ve included the teaser trailer for American Mary below and you can learn more about the Soska sister’s projects at: http://www.twistedtwinsproductions.net/