This past weekend, Jason Eisener celebrated the world premiere of his latest feature film, Kids vs. Aliens, at Fantastic Fest 2022. While it’s been 11 years since the last time Eisener was in the director’s chair for a feature, that doesn’t mean the Canadian filmmaker hasn’t been plenty busy. He’s created several short films (including Slumber Party Alien Abduction, which serves as the launch point for Kids vs. Aliens), edited and produced a handful of other projects, and has been the executive producer and director for this writer’s favorite TV docuseries, Dark Side of the Ring, for VICE TV.
While at Fantastic Fest, Daily Dead had the opportunity to catch up with Eisener to chat about Kids vs. Aliens, and during our chat, he discussed his extremely busy schedule, why the timing was right to make another feature, how Kids vs. Aliens was inspired by many of his own childhood experiences, and more.
Look for more on Kids vs. Aliens closer to the film’s release date.
So great to speak with you today, Jason, and congrats on the movie. When it ended, I was like, "Wait, what?" So I’m definitely on board for more Kids vs. Aliens.
Jason Eisener: Good, good. That's the hope. I hope there can be another one. That's my dream. I had such an amazing time making the movie and creating the universe of it. The universe of it is so much bigger than what's just in this movie. But I left some little bread crumbs along the way. We've already got the next one outlined. If people like this movie, talk about it so that we can try and get the next one going.
Obviously, this is a long time coming for you. I was wondering if you could discuss why the timing felt right to make this movie now, or what the impetus behind the feature finally moving forward was? Because you've been so busy in other realms for so long. I was like, "Wait, he had time to go make a movie” [laughs]?
Jason Eisener: I know [laughs]. I have been, since Hobo [with a Shotgun], every day working to try and make more movies. There have been so many movies that I've had go into development and never got pushed through or that we've gotten close to production. It's just when they say, “Making a movie is a miracle,” it really is. And when I made Hobo with a Shotgun, it was a miracle that that happened. Making Kids vs. Aliens now 10 years later, it's a miracle this movie happened as well. But I've been fighting every day to do it. And then I was lucky to pitch Dark Side of the Ring five or six years ago, which is my true crime documentary series on pro wrestling. We've been working nonstop on that, and that was a whole passion for me as well, because I loved wrestling growing up and also getting to show another side of my filmmaking that's much more dramatic.
I finished season three and it was literally the day I wrapped on that season for a whole year, and then I just went right into prep on this movie and pretty much worked on it up until last week. So it's been nonstop for a little while. But yeah, it feels great. I'm very proud of my Dark Side of the Ring work, but on that show, I'm telling other people's stories. And with this, I'm creating my own story. I really love creating my own stories and my own universes to play in, so that's one of the more rewarding things about getting this movie out is... I don't know, there's a lot of me in the movie and so it just feels like I'm getting my voice out, in a way.
I think for me, because of knowing your work in wrestling and conversations we had way back for Hobo and things like that, this to me felt like this was Jason on a cinematic platter, if you will. You have kids who are fun and making movies, but there's wrestling involved and over-the-top characters in terms of the dinosaur fighting and then the aliens coming in and stuff like that. Can you talk about finding ways to infuse yourself into a story that feels like it's part of your DNA but also is still accessible to audiences?
Jason Eisener: Yeah, that's interesting. I guess the movie is based on a lot of stuff from my childhood and making movies in my backyard with my friends and trying to get my siblings to be in them. I remember the feeling of growing up in junior high when we really got into making films and discovered doing that, and then we got to high school, there were all the social pressures that came of going to parties or dating people and all this stuff, and then just feeling like you’re being pulled away from your childhood imagination. I remember all those feelings, and I wanted, hopefully, an audience to watch the experience of this movie and connect with some of those experiences that I had. But also, back home in Nova Scotia, Canada, there was a great folk legend, or its actual history, where a UFO had crashed into the ocean in a harbor in Southern Nova Scotia in 1967.
A bunch of fishermen saw it and they thought it was a plane that went down. So they rushed their boats out there to try and find survivors and when they got there, there was just this glow coming from the depths. Four days later, the American military arrived with their boats, and they put up tarps and blocked it off from the public from being able to see what was going on there. So there were all these rumors and conspiracies, and there have been documentaries made about it, and the stories had been shared all through the community. Someone in my family worked in the Navy and they heard all these stories. I remember being at the age of the kids in the movie, 12 or 13, and he was telling me what he heard had gone down there. That just blew my mind. He was talking about divers finding beings and the spacecraft, and you could see them moving down there and they got scared.
Then another UFO actually came up underwater and connected with it for a couple of days, supposedly repairing it or something, and then they both eventually took off. It's such a great story and that was literally in my backyard. I also remember seeing trailers on TV for Fire in the Sky, and they said, "Based on a true story." As a kid, I was just like, "What? That happens?" So I was petrified thinking, "They're going to come for me sometime and I better be ready." So I read every book I could on aliens and UFOs when I was in grade five or six, and I kept a baseball bat under my bed. I would have nightmares about aliens. To me, there are all these childhood moments that are in the film that are inspired by my own personal childhood. And then my nightmares as well. So I hope that people connect with it and are also down with the ride of it, too.
[Photo Credit: Above photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.]
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