Set to premiere tonight at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival, Caught is a darkly comedic thriller centered around a desperate housewife who discovers that her husband is having an affair and as a mean-spirited prank, she kidnaps his unsuspecting mistress. But things begin to spin wildly out of control once her perfect plan starts to fall apart.
Written by Marcy Holland and directed by Maggie Kiley, Caught stars Anna Camp (True Blood), Stefanie Scott (Insidious: Chapter 3), Amelia Rose Blaire (True Blood), and Sam Page (Mad Men). Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Kiley as well as with producer Jennifer Westin and co-executive producer Hannah Pillemer about their experiences collaborating together on the film, how important getting the tone right was for Kiley, their thoughts on representing female genre filmmakers at the LAFF and much more.
Caught began with an idea from MarVista Entertainment’s Sharon Bordas who had read a news article which had a huge impact on her. “This story was originally the brain child of Sharon,” explained Pillemer, who works at MarVista on Bordas’ team. “She had read an article in the UK about a couple of teenagers who kidnapped their friend because she had been sleeping with one of their boyfriends. It was meant to be a prank but it got really out of hand, horrifically so, and I think that story just stuck with her over time. She did an outline for it, but it was something that got shelved for a while for some reason. Then I came across it one day and saw that there was something there in that outline, so we brought it to Marcy, one of our writers, and she created this amazing script.”
“Then we brought both Maggie and Jennifer onto the project and that’s when it got really cool, because Maggie brought such an amazing perspective that was so elevated with such a delicious tone—it was brilliant watching her work.”
Kiley discussed what initially attracted her to the project. “I started out as an actress; I had done two features prior to Caught that I had written and were sort of part of that indie drama universe. I had always been intrigued by the thriller genre and so when this script was brought to me, I was immediately drawn to its strong and unique female characters. That really stood out. And the story sort of had this familiar element to it, but also felt very different too. So after I read it, I immediately wanted to start playing around with the material and find a way to elevate it, putting my own stamp on it.”
“It was really important to me that for my genre debut I found a story that was incredibly strong and clever. I worked with Marcy a bit before we started pre-production and I enjoyed that process a lot. I remember there was this one conversation we had about the scene where Sabrina (Camp) is in her bedroom, trying to find things lying around that she can use to torture Allie (Scott) with, and at one point she brings out her flat-iron.”
“Marcy had done a ton of research on home torture techniques (no joke) and that was definitely one of the more popular devices used, which is kind of crazy, and so that moment—which takes things to a really dark, but really funny, place— happened just because of this conversation we had one night,” Kiley added.
According to Westin, nailing down the tone in Caught was one of the bigger challenges they faced, but Kiley rose to the challenge rather easily. “This script was a risk for us just because it was a very fine line that Maggie had to walk tonally. Thankfully, she was fantastic at pulling apart all these layers to the story and the characters, which gave the material a huge boost.”
“The easy thing to do would have been to push the tone straight into camp territory and keep playing at that heightened level," Westin said, "but that would have gotten tired after a while. You need that touch of realism to ground the story or it doesn’t feel like there are any real stakes as you try and continue to build tension throughout. Maggie brought in her sensibilities as a filmmaker, though, and was able to do it all beautifully.”
“The best thing about Maggie is her ability to have these amazing relationships with talent,” added Pillemer. “She’s truly a director that understands actors and knows how to challenge them in a way that is really fun to watch. She and Anna had a great rapport on Caught and it was cool how they’d shoot a scene, then they’d stop and Anna would ask Maggie to throw something else at her, so they’d talk for two minutes and do something completely different, but just as effective.”
Caught is very much a female-driven film, in front of and behind the camera, but that wasn’t necessarily something Kiley realized as she came on board initially. “I don’t think I was conscientiously looking to make something so female-driven; I guess the first thing that really hooked me was the fact that the story was just so great. But that being said, it was an amazing experience to be able to work with such fully fleshed-out female characters that were complicated and engaging in every way. That gave us all a lot of road we could travel with these women.”
For Pillemer and her team at MarVista, creating opportunities for women in film was something that was front and center as they began to put all the components for Caught together, both cast and crew included.
“Creating opportunities for female filmmakers has been the mantra that Sharon and I have shared since I began working at MarVista two years ago. We had to sit down and deeply consider what we wanted the brand on the indie side of things to be about and Caught is a perfect example of what we enjoy doing: creating intriguing indie genre films that are also female-driven both in front of and behind the camera. There were so many talented women who worked on this film and it was exciting to be a part of something like that.”
Caught also features a trio of talented women in front of the camera—Scott as kidnap victim, Allie, Camp as her captor, Sabrina, and Blaire as Sabrina’s sister, Paige, who gets in way over her head once her older sibling’s plan begins to take a series of wrong turns.
“Finding our Sabrina wasn’t necessarily easy, but once Anna came into the picture, we all unanimously fell in love with her for this role,” explained Pillemer. “The role of Allie was a lot harder because it’s not the easiest character to cast—she’s a teenager who’s a bit of a tomboy, but also has this natural beauty to her so you never see her wearing make-up, and she’s smart but also vulnerable, so that’s a tall order.”
“A lot of times where you have a story like this, where the antagonist is such a strong personality, you tend to end up with a protagonist who is a bit watered down or isn’t nearly as interesting as the villain. Then Stefanie came in and she was the perfect counterbalance to Anna—she was so grounded and real and had this infectious personality that you couldn’t help but like just from speaking with her for a few minutes.”
Kiley discussed casting Scott in the role of the protagonist in Caught, explaining that “Stefanie was definitely the ‘girl next door’ where you wanted to root for her through this whole ordeal. Her character, Allie, was a normal 17-year-old girl who was a hard worker and just got mixed up with the wrong older guy, so she had to feel like a real kid that age, but she had to also be someone with a little maturity to her as well. It’s tough to find an actress in that range, too, because we saw so many girls for this role who seemed more like they were 35, not 18, so it wasn’t easy. But Stefanie ended up being so perfect for this—she’s so smart and likeable but she’s also a real teenager, too.”
“I was also incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with this incredible cast, and especially with someone as dedicated as Anna—who I just fucking love,” added Kiley. “She was so fully invested in the character of Sabrina and in creating her with me, which was an amazing experience. We would challenge each other on certain things, but in the end, we always made sure that everything we were doing spoke to the truth of the character. I have never seen that kind of dedication before. It was a special experience for me.”
Another challenge that Kiley faced was keeping the house that they shot in consistently interesting on a visual level, something the up-and-coming filmmaker knew a thing or two about coming into Caught.
“My very first thing I ever did was this short with Jesse Eisenberg where he stood in a hallway the entire time. I remember thinking to myself that by keeping it to just a hallway, that would make it easier. I was so wrong there [laughs], as it became a huge challenge to find new and interesting ways to shoot that small space where we could also keep the story moving forward.”
“And it was the same for the house here, too. I loved that challenge, though, just because through the process, it became another character in the movie, which was great. I came into Caught with very specific ideas of how I wanted to shoot the film and how this environment should look because I wanted it to end up being this juxtaposition of these characters all trapped within the confines of this very beautiful, well-decorated home. It should seem like a ‘perfect’ space, but by the end of the film, it’s far from perfect.”
Far from perfect is right. Caught’s fiery finale was hugely ambitious for the indie thriller, but Pillemer chatted about how their production designer, Lauren Fitzsimmons, came to the rescue in a big way. “Our incredible production designer helped us build a separate set to use during the fire scene so that we had something we could actually burn down. The colors and designs used throughout the house were all top-notch, but to be able to create something like this room took our production to another level and I think it really makes that scene so much more intense. She was amazing.”
With the premiere just right around the corner, Westin credits the success of Caught to the entire team and discussed her experiences collaborating with everyone, as well as how meaningful it is that the film was chosen to be a part of the prestigious Los Angeles Film Festival.
“It was a very enjoyable process for me,” Westin said. “Sometimes when you begin working with people you’ve never worked with before, it can be a little uncertain at first, but we all fell into this great back-and-forth, so it was a great experience for me. Plus, making an indie movie is a very intimate experience and when you couple that with the fact that genre films kind of get the sort end of the stick as it is, the core team became deeply invested in this process and in turn, they found people to work on the film who were just as invested. That’s so rare.”
“I am so excited that we’re part of the LA Film Festival; this one was at the top of my list just because it is our hometown. We shot the film here, most of the cast and crew are from here, so it’s going to be a really special moment for all us, being together and watching it in a theater with an audience. Most of them will be seeing it for the first time, too, and that’s pretty cool. I’m definitely having a case of nerves, but I think mostly I’m just going to be so relieved once it’s out there and people have finally seen it. Plus, we’re the only film in the genre section that has a female director, so that’s pretty incredible too.”